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Trends in Asia and the Pacific

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Countries in the region are at different stages of ICT development in education. The region can be roughly categorized into three groups: Integrated Countries, Implementing Countries and Planning Countries.

Integrated Countries

The countries at the integrated stage include Australia, South Korea and Singapore. In terms of connectivity and ICT penetration, almost all classrooms have been equipped with computers and other ICTs, have a high student/computer ratio, and have a high level of internet access to all schools. South Korean schools, for example, have universal access to internet. In terms of ICT policy, their ministries of education have formulated national ICT policies in education, as well as master plans to implement policies, with provisions of adequate budgets to ensure effectiveness. As far as the use of ICT in teaching/learning is concerned, all of these countries have revised their curriculum to ensure that ICT becomes integral nationwide. Furthermore, the delivery of education is increasingly online, with e-Learning greatly facilitated by wide access to the internet.

Professional development also forms a major part of the ICT program in the Integrated Countries, with incentives offered for regular training activities for educators and administrators, both in-service and pre-service. Like e-Learning, the delivery of teacher training is rapidly going online, beyond training on computer literacy to genuine integration of ICT in the curriculum. Training courses also develop teachers’ skills in putting their classroom online, developing websites, participating in SchoolNet and professional electronic discussions, teleconferencing, and telecollaboration. The main concern of teacher training is to develop criteria, standards and benchmarks for beginning and existing teachers to underpin effective use of ICT in practice. These countries are also far ahead in terms of evaluation, monitoring and the development of indicators to measure the impact of ICT use in education.

With the basic concerns of ICT penetration and connectivity out of the way, fresh challenges have arisen, including:

  • Improving and strengthening online learning
  • Making internet access and hardware/software replacement more affordable
  • Improving connectivity by making broadband more widely available
  • Making ICT more affordable and better managed
  • Enhancing the skills of teachers in integrating the use of ICT in classrooms
  • Training on the use of the internet (South Korea)
  • Development of local software/versions of existing software in local languages
  • Digital rights management and copyright issues
  • Promoting equity (while the ratio of students-to-computers in Australia is extremely good, inequalities exist, particularly with respect to indigenous Australians and those in rural and isolated areas)
  • Solving technical support problems
  • Developing and refining indicators and conducting more evaluative studies and research
  • Identifying threats and developing online safety policies for children

Implementing Countries

These countries include China, Thailand, the Philippines and India. Even among these countries, there remain variations. All have both developed national ICT policies in education and established goals and objectives in introducing ICT in various aspects of education. Most policy goals are linked with overall national ICT policies – to introduce ICT in Education in order to contribute to society for economic development; to foster creative industrial manpower; construction of total performance support systems, bridging the digital divide and promoting equity in access, etc. The more micro-oriented goals deal with improvement of teaching and learning processes, producing students who are confident, creative and productive users of new technologies, instructing how to use ICTs as enabling tools to access information and gain knowledge, linking all educational institutions to the wealth of online resources, and using ICT for distance education for all citizens, regardless of age, profession, distance or geography.

Connectivity and ICT penetration in these nations is growing, but not yet to the level of the more integrated countries. As far as integration of ICT use in the curriculum and in teaching/learning, experiences also vary. While there have been efforts to integrate the use of ICT in the teaching of certain subjects (as in the case of China), efforts have been isolated and have not yet reached nationwide. Generally, teachers are using ICT for word processing, presentations and/or spreadsheets. It is also usually introduced as one component or as a class period within a subject area, rather than becoming actually infused within lessons. In the Philippines, a report pointed out that ICT is not integrated at all into textbooks. In India, ICT is usually taught as a separate subject, with ICT education being introduced through a multi-layered approach. First, ICT is integrated in textbooks for computer subjects, such as Introduction to Computer Science, Informatics Practices, or ICT Systems.

The same is true for professional development and teacher training. The majority of teachers being trained on ICT are being trained in computer literacy. Training on the use of ICT for teaching specific subjects has begun, but is not yet wide spread. Most of these countries offer pre-service and in-service training. In the Philippines, most teacher training institutions offer computer education as a required course. Usually, public schools send a few teachers to computer literacy training, who, theoretically, then pass on their learning through peer teaching. Private schools usually hire ICT service providers to give training to their teachers. Very often, only select teachers are given priority attention – those teaching English, Science, and Mathematics. Most of these countries are also being helped by the private sector in the training of teachers. Intel, IBM, Microsoft and Coca Cola have all funded massive teacher training in India, the Philippines and Thailand, among others.

With regard to online learning, these countries are still in their infancy. However, SchoolNets are becoming popular in Thailand, Indonesia and, to a lesser extent, the Philippines. Unfortunately, indicators and performance benchmarks are almost non-existent in these countries. Though some have undertaken surveys on the use of ICT in education, they have focused mostly on quantitative, rather than qualitative aspects.

Many problems still plague countries in this phase of development, including:

  • Accessibility and affordability of internet connection
  • Integration of ICTs into curricula
  • Shortages of trained staff
  • Teachers’ reluctance to use technology and lack of motivation
  • School administrators’ lack of appreciation of ICT in education
  • Budgetary inefficacy - most investment being used for hardware, rather than for improving teacher’s skills and content production
  • Maintenance of ICT resources and lack of technical staff
  • Sustainability
  • Limited availability of educational software and courseware

Planning Countries

These countries include Myanmar, Lao PDR, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Bhutan and the Pacific Island Countries. Some have already developed their national policies, they do not have effective work plans. Others do not have a national policy, but ICT projects are already ongoing on a small scale. Whatever the case may be, all lack the budget to implement their policies and work plans Infrastructure and ICT penetration are the main focal points.

Flash is required!

Many schools have received donated computers, which are often not functioning properly. In Vietnam, the World Computers Exchange and SIEMENS have introduced a project that will equip many schools with second-hand computers. In the Solomon Islands and other Pacific islands, the main concern is to connect with the internet and install telecommunication infrastructure. Clearly, these countries still have a long way to go in terms of ICT accessibility and connectivity.

In schools where equipment is available, ICT courses are often introduced as a separate offering, such as in Indonesia and Vietnam, rather than as an integral part of subject teaching. Sometimes, ICT is an extra-curricular or optional subject. Many of the nations have not developed adequate ICT curricula at all, even as separate offerings. Teacher training has just begun, mostly focusing on computer literacy in basic software such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint and other basic programs.

The private sector has also begun to facilitate the use of ICT in education in these countries. Intel, IBM, Siemens and Coca Cola have made efforts in this area. Clearly, these countries require comprehensive assistance programs in policy and master plan development, strengthening their infrastructure and connectivity, teacher training and use of ICT in the classrooms. While the most common problems still relate to infrastructure and telecommunications development, further challenges include language difficulties (most ICT-related software and contents are in English), disparity in the accessibility of ICT between urban and rural areas, lack of motivation and technophobia among teachers, shortage of trained teachers and the like.