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 Monday, November 21, 2011

Hosted by Ericsson, the first Networked Society Forum (NEST Forum) took place in Hong Kong from Nov. 11-13. Leaders and authorities, from the ICT industry and governments, gathered at NEST to discuss how ICT could be utilized to accelerate education and learning for everyone, every where. It's a pity that the proceedings of the forum didn't get much attention in Saudi Arabia, because many of the topics presented were extremely relevant to the debate on how to enhance education here in the Kingdom.

Consider these points on education and technology:

UNESCO and UNICEF report that almost 70 million children are out of school globally, with millions more leaving school early without acquiring the knowledge and skills that are crucial for a decent livelihood, and about 800 million adults lacking basic literacy skills. In the US, one out of four high school students never graduates.

Doubling the broadband speed of an economy increases GDP by 0.3 percent, according to research conducted by Ericsson, Arthur D. Little and the University of Chalmers. The same research found that for every 1,000 broadband connections, 80 new Internet jobs are created. For every ten percent of mobile broadband penetration, an economy adds one percent sustainable GDP.

An October 2011 report from the UN's Broadband Commission for Digital Development found that 30 percent of people worldwide are Internet users. In developed countries, around half the population has mobile broadband and about a quarter has fixed (wired) broadband. In developing countries, however, the figures are a small fraction of these, at 5.4 percent for mobile broadband and 4.4 percent for fixed (estimated, end 2010).

Online education is growing. The Khan Academy is the largest free online school in the world, with one million students a month viewing 100 – 200,000 videos per day on YouTube. According to iNACOL, China’s first online school was created in 1996; today it has expanded to more than 200 online schools with enrollments exceeding 600,000 students.

One of those who has put forward ideas which are in opposition to conventional education methods is Newcastle University Professor Sugata Mitra. He has been conducting experiments with several models of self-teaching, through his Hole-in-the-Wall project (www.hole-in-the-wall.com), as well as through experiments with Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs). Having succeeded in helping Tamil-speaking children teach themselves the basic concepts of biotechnology — in English, and without teacher assistance — Mitra is openly challenging the wisdom of education that requires a teacher to stand in the front of a classroom to share knowledge.

Mitra is a leading proponent of Minimally Invasive Education (MIE). At NEST he advised that if we are evaluating students based on their ability to memorize basic facts, as we often have in the past, then we are teaching yet another skill that computers have made practically useless. Instead, we need to reconsider the aims of our education and assessment methods altogether.

(Source: Arab News)
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