The road ahead…
ICT provides an excellent opportunity for the teachers to adopt from millions of teaching styles which were previously confined to a few. It gives countries an opportunity to achieve the International LaboUr Organisation (ILO) goals of Education for All (EFA), Skills for All (SFA) and Lifelong Learning for All (LLA)
The world of information, communication and education have changed a lot since information and communication technologies including the internet, television, radio, mobile, tabs and smartphones came into being. Education, as a matter of fact, has been experiencing many cultural, social, economic and technical problems since the beginning of this century. With rapid inventions, new tools have been emerging continuously forcing educationist to include them in their teaching methodologies, adding to financial and management challenges of the institutes of today.
Though there is no denial that the modern technologies have helped in developing new ways and models to get paramount success in the teaching-learning process but have added challenges as well. Toffler said in 1991, “The illiterate ofthe 21st century, will not be those who cannot readand write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”, and he was very true. A whole generation of those teachers who never touched a computer was forced to unlearn and relearn. Some did and some not, so is the success rate of inclusion and optimization of ICT in education.
ICT provides an excellent opportunity for the teachers to adopt from millions of teaching styles which were previously confined to a few. It gives countries an opportunity to achieve the International LaboUr Organisation (ILO) goals of Education for All (EFA), Skills for All (SFA) and Lifelong Learning for All (LLA). ICT, however, has failed to introduce itself to the masses in a holistic manner. It was supposed to aid the teachers in converting the teaching-learning process into an energetic, attractive, delightful and active procedure but somehow its users limited it to a screen that shows images and graphs more easily than a picture in hand would. Educational institutions failed to understand that inclusion of ICT tools into the classroom do not make any significant difference until used efficiently and effectively. That is why those who say that traditional method is moreeffective than the modern, actually visualised ICT as a robot which will take their place, do their job and produce excellent results; ICT is not a robot at all.
Successful incorporation of ICT in education systems is a complex and manifold process which needs full devotion from the management and teachers in the provision of latest technology, optimised pedagogy, willingness to adapt and adopt, institution readiness, teachers competency, curriculum synchronisation and long-run funding. Only then it can bring the fruits promised in the ICT movement for education. Due to such preliminary requirements, there is a long list of hurdles that resist in the integration of ICT in the developing countries like Pakistan.
Like many sectors, our education is a mix of immature experimentation as well. ICT literacy in the generation of experienced and old teachers who are well versed with the traditional teaching learning styles is almost zero and there is no governmental effort at the policy level for the effective integration of ICT into the curriculum. It is the teacher who is required or shall integrate ICT into the education as no support comes from the curriculum. One may never find the URLs of related Youtube videos, websites or articles on a particular subject in the exercise or lesson of a textbook. The whole burden of finding and presenting the relevant ICT material has been thrown to a teacher who is already overburdened.
This is being discussed after the country has seven educational policies, eight five-year plans and numerous educational schemes to salt the eyes of donors as there is nothing exemplary that can be presented as a happy outcome of all these. Dr Yasira Waqar, a professor of ICT in Columbia University, talked to DNA on this issue.
“We have failed to achieve 23 of 34 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) including women empowerment, quality education through ICT, healthcare facilities and the environment. Our 61,000 researchers and 10,670 PhDs are not contributing anything substantial that can change the alleyway of our fate. The world has proved that with effective curriculum integration, ICT can put a significant positive impact on students learning but after designing curriculum repeatedly, we have missed ICT integration. Providing computers and projectors in a classroom is not ICT at all”.
In my 12 years teaching experience, I have found that teachers in Pakistan have unclear reasons for inclusion of ICT into their education methodology except they would say; “it is good”. We need to give reasons to these teachers to convince them for effective ICT integration
Dr Seema Arif, Chairperson of Department of Education in a local university thinks that for Pakistan ICT is a horror dream because the whole focus has been on getting foreign aid to purchase and provide computers to the schools on the name of ICT. Our teachers have no experience of teaching with ICT, our infrastructure is outdated, the technical on-spot support is almost absent and in case of a problem or glitch a school may have to wait for days to continue, large class sizes, inability of a teacher to help students during their computer use, fewer computers, lack of connectivity in public and private schools, regular power breakdown, ineffective curriculum which leaves no time for a teacher to plan and integrate technology into the curriculum, rigid education policies, lack of financial support and what not?, ICT needs a commitment which is lacking at the government level.”
Dr Zaheer Asghar, a lecturer of education in a university of Lahore pointed towards the fear factor in ICT. “The older and more abundant generation of teachers in primary, middle and secondary schools think that computers require highly trained and skilled personnel. There is another fear in the minds of parents and the school management, that by using computers, students will be exposed to adult sites and other undesired sites through the internet. Until teachers and their parents are not taught on the safe use of computers, a primary, middle or secondary school student will hardly get a universal acceptance to use a computer in our setting. ”
Professor Dr Abdul Hameed, Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Management and Technology Lahore thinks our teachers have not come out of the ego yet. “A myth that ‘teacher knows all’ still occupies our mind. Taking help from the internet in front of the students is taken as an insult by most of the teachers in school. This ego has transformed itself into a fear that makes ICT inferior for most of the teachers in school. Somehow, they think that ICT undermines their authority and grip on the class. And this is also a fact that along with matchless benefits the computer and other ICT tools have brought moral degradation, access to pornography, cyberbullying and other anti-Islamic and anti-social behaviors which are not desired to be present in a primary, middle or a secondary school student”.
Professor Dr Shahid Siddiqui, Vice-Chancellor of The Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) talked toDNA on the subject as well.
“While views on ICT integration at school level may differ but we have successfully done it at the university level in Pakistan. Distance learning is an example both the AIOU and the Virtual University of Pakistan (VU) have achieved difficult milestones through ICT-enabled learning. These experiences can be multiplied at the school level as well but due to weak or no school-varsity connectivity both remain apart. ICT is ubiquitous in the every university of Pakistan. You will hardly find a university classroom without a computer, internet and projector. Teachers at the university level are well versed and using ICT in instruction is their priority. If we can overcome the energy crisis, the speed of ICT integration will be manifold which I hope we would until next year”.
But there are motivational challenges to ICT in Pakistan as well. In my 12 years teaching experience, I have found that teachers in Pakistan have unclear reasons for inclusion of ICT into their education methodology except they would say; “it is good”. We need to give reasons to these teachers to convince them for effective ICT integration. There is a lack of accountability, absence of SMART targets, too rigid curriculum and most importantly a missing senior leadership team (SLT) that would streamline the whole integration process in a seamless manner.
To put Pakistan and its student perfectly into the information age, following steps are recommended. I have taken them from my presentation at the International Conference on Optimising ICT in Education (2007) at the Asian Development Bank Headquarters in the Manila, Philippines. Although a lot many countries have worked on them, but for us, these are still workable.
- Teachers at the schools level shall be taken into confidence and aware of the benefits that ICT can bring to them.
- For faster and effective integration of ICT in schools, technology plans must be devised at the governmental, departmental and the school level.
- Like Urdu, English, Islamiat, Mathematics and Science, ICT curriculum shall be developed and made compulsory at the school level.
- Teachers who successfully integrate ICT in their classrooms, after monitoring shall be rewarded (incentive payments).
- Training of pre- and in-service teachers including the school heads shall be done through ICT tools.
- Mode of examinations shall be changed and TOEFL and IELTS models may be used for ICT integration into the examination system.
- Course contents shall be designed in a way that the most relevant list of URLs may be given to the teachers and students to focus upon.
- E-based assignments shall replace paper-based assignments.
- At least one computer, internet connection and projector shall be provided in every class.
Practicing these humble suggestions can bring a paradigm shift to our current performance in integrating ICT at the school level.
Otherwise, we have reached nowhere!