Information And Communication Technologies In Schools Education Essay

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1. Introduction

The term, information and communication technologies (ICT) refers to forms of technologies that are used to create, store, share or transmit and exchange information. This broad definition of ICT includes technologies like radio, television, video, DVD, telephone (both fixed line and mobile phones), satellite systems, computer and network hardware and software; as well as the equipment and services associated with these technologies, such as videoconferencing and electronic mail. (UNESCO 2002)

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) revolution have entirely changed the ways of life. Especially, in the recent years, ICT infrastructure has become the symbol of development for a country. ICTs are playing a vital role by all means to impart quality, improve operating procedures, standardizing the roles of different stakeholders and at the same time providing all these in a more economic way. Besides its contributions to other fields of life, like manufacturing industry, medical, communication, business, entertainment etc, the role of ICT has proven to be very much effective and revolutionary in the education sector as well.

ICT in Schools:

In education, ICT is considered part of a solution to addressing the changing learning needs of societies (Garrison & Anderson, 2006). ICT helps improve schools administration such as the registration of students, keeping and retrieving of students records, and enables electronic (rather than manual) handling of marks. Furthermore, it enables teachers and students to gain easy access to learning and teaching materials online.

There is a growing interest of integration ICT into classrooms as it is assumed that successful integration will offer a wide spectrum of valuable benefits for teaching and learning (Cope & Ward, 2002). A variety of ICT tools, techniques, contents and resources are used to aim at improving the quality and efficiency of the teaching-learning process. There are a variety of options available to teachers to utilize these various modes/ICT tools for effective pedagogy. Each such device or strategy also involves changes in the classroom environment. Availability of a wide range of such teaching-learning materials will catalyze transformation of classrooms into SMART classrooms.

By their very nature, ICT calls for innovation. It is about exploiting the full capabilities of technology to open new perspectives for both teachers and students (Rai, 2006). Utilization of ICT in teaching-learning process all over the word has led to raise the quality and efficiency of teaching-learning process.

Educators and policymakers believe that information and communication technologies are of supreme importance to the future of education and, in turn, for the country at large. As ICT is becoming an integral element for educational reforms and innovations at secondary schools, this situation calls for an enhancement of pre-service education on ICT for prospective teachers (Khirwadkar, 2000).

At the international level, the United Nations has generated the "Global e-School and Communities Initiative" (GeSCI), a special campaign to promote the use of technology in education. India's "Silicon Valley," Bangalore, has been chosen as the headquarters for this United Nations campaign. The GeSCI initiative was established by the UN ICT Task Force in 2003. The GeSCI initiative has drawn attention to the fact that ICT in schools has impact that goes beyond the classroom, yielding enormous benefits to local communities in the form of employment, adult education, health, business services, communication, and e-governance.

Management Monitoring & Reporting

Maintenance and Technical Support

Using Training and Support

Content and Applications

Development of ICT Platform

Educational Objectives

Funding

Actions

Figure: GeSCI End-to-End SystemGeSCI has identified 5 key elements that must be considered if the deployment of ICTs is to have meaningful impact. These components must all co-exist, none is optional and together form an "end-to-end" system.

Source: GeSCI, 2005

1.2 ICT infrastructure in Pakistan:

The first computer was installed in Pakistan almost 50 years back at Karachi. During 1970's and early 80's very few licenses were issued by the Ministry of Commerce for the import of computers. In mid 80s the free import of computers was allowed and the duties on computer imports were also removed. In the 90's the market was flooded with low cost user friendly PC's that did not require rigid operating environments. This resulted in sharp increase in the number of computers imported and installed both in the government as well as in the private sector. In March 2000, the IT & Telecom Division was established at federal level and Prof. Dr. Atta-ur- Rehman was appointed the Minister for Science & Technology(MoST). Since then a lot of activity has been taken place in the IT sector in Pakistan. During this period the IT awareness was raised , a media hype for IT was created, usage of internet has become common, the funding for IT increased manifold and various incentives were given for the promotion of IT industry and IT training and education in Pakistan.

1.3 ICT in Education in Pakistan:

Recognizing the growing importance of ICT in education, Ministry of Education(MoE) Government of Pakistan in collaboration with Education Sector Reform Assistance (ESRA) Program developed National Information & Communications Technology (NICT) Strategy for Education in 2006.

The NICT Strategy contains six elements:

Element 1. Use ICT to extend the reach of educational opportunity: Utilise ICT creatively to assist teachers and students with a wide range of abilities and from varied socio-economic backgrounds.

Element 2. Apply ICT to strengthen the quality of teaching and educational management: Use ICT to maximise opportunities for educators' continuous learning and to help educators understand and effectively use ICT.

Element 3. Employ ICT to enhance student learning: Integrate ICT into schools and learning centres to support students' self-paced learning and provide them with chances to explore, investigate, reflect, learn social skills (such as collaboration, logical reasoning, and creative expression), and enhance self-esteem.

Element 4. Develop complementary approaches to using ICT in education: Support students and teachers in developing key ICT competencies (including sophisticated problem-solving and critical thinking skills) by treating ICT as a school subject, as well as a critical instructional aid.

Element 5. Build on the current experiences of existing and successful ICT programmes: Gather, organise, provide access to, share, and use for planning purposes national and international data on effective approaches to using ICT in education.

Element 6. Develop capacity at the federal and provincial department of education levels: Form a new office of the government to represent the cause of ICT in Education and advise the MoE.

Recently, in addition to NICT(2006), the National Educational Policy(2009) has also discussed the importance of ICT.

1.3.1 The National Educational Policy 2009 & ICT

Use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Education shall be promoted in line with Ministry of Education's "National Information and Communication Technology Strategy for Education in Pakistan".

ICTs shall be utilized creatively to assist teachers and students with a wide range of abilities and from varied socio-economic backgrounds.

ICTs shall be used to strengthen the quality of teaching and educational management.

1.4 ICT in Secondary Schools in Pakistan:

Today, thousands of schools are facilitated with the ICT infrastructure. Most of them are from private sector. A small number of them are from public sector. These schools have ICT infrastructure at various levels; some have fully equipped computer labs and a few are having only one or two computers. These computers and other ICT infrastructure was provided to these schools by various government departments such as Federal Ministry of Information Technology, Provincial Information Technology Departments, and Concerned District Governments.

Even though, the number of schools equipped with ICT infrastructure is increasing with the passage of time and the government has also announced a national strategy in connection with ICT in education, the management of public schools perhaps still does not have a clear vision for the use of ICT infrastructure at their schools. Therefore, this research work will try to explore the following facts.

2. Research objective

It is very clear from the National Education Policy (2009) and National Information & Communication Technology (NICT) Strategy for Education (2006) that ICT has to be used to strengthen the quality of teaching at all levels. But is it true for schools? In order to explore the use of Information and Communication Technology at Public secondary schools of Hyderabad District, this research study will try to find out the answers of the following questions:

What is the level/quality of ICT infrastructure available at public secondary schools of Hyderabad District?

Does the management of these schools have a clear vision for the use of ICT infrastructure at their respective school?

What are the current uses of this ICT infrastructure at secondary schools?

What are the issues/problems in using ICT effectively in order to improve the quality and access of education in secondary schools?

To design a model/framework that will provide a path of using ICT in an effective way in public secondary schools that is harmonized with National Education Policy (2009) and National Information & Communication Technology (NICT) Strategy (2006).

3. Literature Review:

In this research, a comprehensive literature review will be performed comprising reviewing earlier work done in this area, relevant research journals, surveys conducted by national and international organizations, recent findings regarding utilization of Information and Communication Technology in education particularly at secondary level in different developed and developing countries.

4. Methodologies

This research will adopt both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, based on primary and secondary data. Primary data will originate from survey questionnaire that will be designed to collect data from heads/teachers of the public secondary schools of Hyderabad District; and from direct interviews from the concerned officials. Secondary data will comprise the research articles, government policy documents, and print or online media.

The primary data collected will be analyzed through SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Sciences) and results/conclusion will be drawn in view of national and international policy documents/guidelines.

4. Significance of the study

The research will trace the current status and use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in public secondary schools of Hyderabad and identify the barriers in proper utilization of ICT infrastructure at secondary schools. A path/framework compatible with local resources/needs will be developed for effective use of ICT infrastructure at secondary schools of Hyderabad District that can be generalized for other parts of the country.

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