Telecentre and Education: It’s time to bring together

Bangladesh Education Article
Bangladesh Education Article
Written by Roy
ASAD-UZ-ZAMAN ASAD


Computer Training changed Ms. Khaleda’s life

Khaleda Akhter is the fourth child of her parents. His father is a poor day labor and mother is a housewife. It was very impossible to bear the large family with her poor father. As a result she was in great anxiety.


From the beginning of her academic life, Ms.Khaleda bears her educational expenses with the income of her tuitioni. In this way she passed SSC and HSC. It was a great challenge for Khaleda. One day She knew that SDS Pallitathya Kendra (Telecentre) is offering Computer Training Course based on the syllabus of Microsoft with a little amount of money. She took the chance without making any late. She successfully completed the course. After completing this, she tried to engage herself in any job. At last she got a chance to work in the field level with a Non-Govt. Development Organization named UST. She prepares reporting and other necessary documents using computer. The Organization gives her BDT 5000.00 per month. It is a great milestone in the life of Khaleda Akhter. Now she is continuing her academic career as well as contributing her family well. She is very happy and very grateful to Pallitathya Kendra (Telecentre) as it changed her life. Ms. Khaleda hopes that this type of Telecentre should be explored in every union of Bangladesh so that the poor and marginalized people get access of using ICT. (Note: Case collected: May 06, 2009)

Ms. Lovely received HSC result in Time

Ms. Lovely is the daughter of Ms. Sokina and Mr. Mohammad Nasir Uddin. Her 5-member family has a monthly income of USD 60 on average. Ms. Lovely appeared in the nationwide held Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) from her college located in Netrokona town in 2005.


She was very anxious about her exam result. When the concerned authority published the result in the internet, she got more anxious to receive it. But she wanted to save her parents’ money and time too in collecting the information. At that point, she learnt about the internet browsing service of Pallitathya Kendra (Telecentre) from one of her neighbors which is only one and half kilometers away from her home. She was very curious and could not believe that she might be able to receive the service from her own rural community.


Finally she paid a visit to the centre on October 05, 2006 and got hold of her desired information through browsing the internet. She spent only BDT 10.00 to get her result. And she spent BDT 20.00 for the rickshaw fares. If she would collect the information from her college in town, she would have to spend a total of BDT 60.00 which is five and half kilometers away from her home. Thus the received service from the centre both saved her money and time. Therefore, Ms. Lovely was very thankful about received service. (Note: case collected on December, 2, 2006)


What is Telecentre?

A Telecentre is a public place where people can access computers, the internet, and other digital technologies that enable them to gather information, create, learn, and communicate with others while they develop essential digital skills. While each Telecentre is different, their common focus is on the use of digital technologies to support community, economic, educational, and social development—reducing isolation, bridging the digital divide.

Telecentres exist in almost every country, although they sometimes go by a different name-Community Information Centre (CIC), Community e-centre, Public Internet Access Center (PIAC), Village Knowledge Center, Infocenter, Community Technology Center (CTC), Community Multimedia Center (CMC), Multipurpose Community Telecentre (MCT), Common/Citizen Service Centre (CSC), School-based Telecentre etc.

In Bangladesh the name of ‘Telecentre’ initiated by D.Net (Development Research Network) is ‘Pallitathya Kendra’. D.Net is also leading Computer and IT Literacy Center-CLCs (School based Telecentre) in Bangladesh.  D.Net’s vision is a society where information and knowledge facilitates all stakeholders’ participation in generation of wealth and its equitable distribution for poverty alleviation.

D.Net’s Telecentres in Bangladesh

Pallitathya Kendra (PK): The concept of ‘Pallitathya’ evolved since 2003, when D.Net started its action research on improving access to information and knowledge through ICTs. Pallitathya model promotes an information and knowledge system for the poor and marginalized. The broad objective of PK is to bring in new solution and insights for improving access to information and knowledge so that rural people can take informed decisions in their daily life and exercise their rights through increased awareness.

Currently thirty six PKs are operating at thirty six villages in collaboration with local Development Organizations. Out of those two PKs are operating in Union Parishad (UP) premises through tripartite relationship among D.Net, local NGO and UP and one are operating by Local Citizen’s Committee.

Computer and IT Literacy Center (CLC): Computer is a key educational tool of the information age. While almost every home in the developed world has at least one personal computer, disadvantaged students in rural Bangladesh often have no access to a computer. The gap in available opportunities between a student in rural Bangladesh and one in a developed nation thus keeps on increasing.

Experiences of computer learning in successful developing nations demonstrate that this ‘Digital Divide’ is more amenable to remedy than many other disparities. What is even more encouraging is that a proper computer education can create a robust workforce capable of exploiting the global opportunities provided by the information technology for local economic development.  It is crucial that underprivileged students in Bangladesh receive proper computer training that will enable them to seize the worldwide information technology opportunities.

CLC is a useful step in that direction.CLC promotes knowledge and usage of computers and information technology among the underprivileged youths in Bangladesh. As of June 2009, 107 CLCs has been established in 41 districts.

Telecentre and Education

Telecentre and Education are closely related. Rapid developments of information and communication technologies (ICT) in recent years have resulted in significant changes in the way the world operates and communicates. This in turn has an impact on educational needs, both in terms of the content and the delivery of educational services, and there has been increasing pressure on decision-makers to acquire new technologies. This is a new era in the field of education. And it is high time to bring together-Telecentre and Education.

To build a knowledge based society, as announced in the national Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy of Bangladesh, and reap the benefits of a new economy, Bangladesh needs its young generation to be educated and acquainted with the state-of-the-art knowledge of ICT. Volunteer Association for Bangladesh, New Jersey Chapter (VABNJ), a group of non-resident Bangladeshis, took an initiative through which CLCs would be established at educational institutions throughout Bangladesh to help underprivileged youths learn computer usage. This Computer Learning Program  is a complete package which includes the establishment of a computer lab at each CLC, development of a structured hands-on curriculum, development of training manuals for both teachers and students, creation of a pool of trained teachers, and providing the required technical support and monitoring to ensure smooth operation of the computer labs. Each computer lab is equipped with a minimum of four computers, one printer, necessary voltage regulator/stabilizers and other accessories. D.Net implemented this vision. The on-the-ground tasks include site selection for CLCs, developing curricula, preparing instruction manuals, training the teachers, supervising the smooth operation of the centres, and technical support and maintenance. The initiative, which is being implemented in collaboration with D.Net, aims to establish 1000 school based learning centres by 2010.

When a batch completed the computer learning course, CLCs send the list of students who successfully completed the 40 hours course to D.Net and based on the list D.Net issues the certificates of appreciations to the CLCs for the students. D.Net also provides an amount of BDT 200.00 to the best student of every batch. Normally a batch consists of eight to ten students. As of April 2009 total 18,913 students enrolled the course and 18,404 students successfully completed the course.

In consultation with prominent computer scientists in Bangladesh, a curriculum was developed. Based on that curriculum a students’ manual “Esho Computer Shikhi” (Let’s  Learn Computers), has been published. This has gained wide acceptance in Bangladesh as the best manual of its kind. Two teachers from each CLC receive two weeks of intensive training from D.Net professionals. D.Net also provided with a “teacher’s manual.

At Pallitathya Kendra (PK) generally the rural students get educational information from the content-Jeeon-Information and Knowledge Base (Jeeon-IKB).The content was developed by D.Net with pictures and diagrams to make it user friendly. Jeeon IKB is an off-line browsing system to search livelihood information including education. The word ‘Jeeon’ means ‘life’ and the slogan of the content is ‘Information for life and livelihood’. The web version of the content is www.jeeon.com.

Students of rural community are learning English using CTEE (Computer Teaches Everyday English) CD from Telecentres. D.Net has developed this easily perceivable research-based educational content to accelerate English proficiency of young learners (mainly for the secondary school students) of grass root level in Bangladesh. At the same time, the precise concentration has been provided to support the English Teachers to get better linguistic approach. One of the main objectives of this research-based educational content is to assist the people to improve computer operating skill. VAB-NJ is the donor partner to develop the content.

The major characteristic of this content is that a prominent expert group of researcher has worked at grass root level of various schools in Bangladesh to develop the learning method. The content is distributed as per requirement of our learners through teachers view to make it easy and teaching friendly.

The CD contains total 11 stepping lessons and each lesson contains grammars. In order to make it more beneficial, there has been added dictionary, poems, English hand-writing and exercises with different grammatical format. It is to be anticipated that this educational content will play a potential role to reduce the English panic among the students.

It’s true that many of our rural youths are unemployed due to lack of information. At present a lot of students and youths are searching job information from Telecentre by job category, by the district, by the educational qualification as well as combination of all options in Bangla using the Bangla web portal Jeebika.com (www.jeebika.com). This is, developed by D.Net, for accessing to job information particularly suitable for the rural people. Students and youths also get the opportunity of computer compose, e-mail, and other internet browsing from Telecentres.

Rural illiterate women learn quilt stitching from ‘Nari o Noksha’ CD developed by D.Net and UNESCO. It is based on picture, text and animation. They also know or get idea on Bangla alphabets and numbers.

Sisimpur, Meena cartoon and many other education and awareness related CDs are shown to children, adolescents and youths in most of the Telecentres. Meena is a popular character of an animation produced by UNICEF. This animation is very popular among children.

Sisimpur is designed to meet the needs of 3 to 6 year-old Bangladeshi children (pre-school children) across social classes and living in different regions. The program’s educational objectives are developed by Nayantara Communication in collaboration with Bangladeshi educational advisors and outline a range of skills that advisors deemed particularly important to children in Bangladesh. Sisimpur embraces the concept of joy in learning, highlighting lessons in literacy and numeracy, as well as health and respect in ways that are fun and engaging.

A recent national survey of over 7,000 children in Bangladesh revealed evidence of the program’s positive impact: Children who watched Sisimpur regularly demonstrated basic literacy and math skills that were equivalent to children who were one year older and had no exposure to Sisimpur. Another study in Bangladesh examined the educational impact of the show, and found that children who viewed Sisimpur showed measurable gains in vocabulary, cognitive skills, and cultural knowledge, compared to children who viewed a commercial cartoon.

As a member of CMT (Centre Management Team-PK) I visited some PKs and talked with the rural people including students, youths, teachers and educators. They have a great interest about PK. They feel that this new initiative will fulfill their educational needs; And by using the ICT-based materials, the quality of education will be ensured.

On 10th March, 2009 We went to PK Protik Trust, Shuvashini, Tala, Satkhira and meet with the students and teachers of some educational institutions. In Shuvashini High School we showed the educational content-FERI (Foundation of Education Research and Education) CD by using computer, which is based on science and mathematics. Students were very curious to see this content.

“I feel interest to see this CD. We will be benefitted if we get scope to see this sort of educational material (CD) in every now and then. We will be able to understand a topic (like, what is mater) very clearly with example, But traditionally we used to get by heart.”-said Nasrin Sultana Sheuli, a student of class nine.

After completing the presentation, we discussed with the Headmaster of that school, Mr. M.M Abul Kashem. He said, “It’s a very nice initiative. This sort of arrangement will enrich us as well as our students. We will go to PK regularly”.

Last 30th May, 2009 we went to PK Darpan, Baira, Muradnagar, Comilla and met with many students and youths of that community. One of them Md. Mashuk mia, a student of class seven of Baira Arif High School said, “One day I came at PK to know something about corporal punishment as one of our teacher punishes us most of the time. I knew the information from jeeon, and then shared those with my friends.”

In this way, the learners of the community are taking educational services from Telecentre. They are satisfied with the services. So, the community people own Telecentre and they use it as a first reference. They expect that Telecentre should be explored in every union of Bangladesh so that the poor and marginalized people get access of using ICT.

As an activist of Telecentre movement as well as Education movement, I think the Government of Bangladesh should take the following steps within the shortest possible time to fulfill the dream of Digital Bangladesh:

  • The Government of Bangladesh faces problems every year in publishing textbooks timely. It creates de-motivation among the young learners. The Govt. should publish all the textbooks on the website of NCTB. This is a easy and low cost solution. Govt. also give the soft copy of those Books to BTN (Bangladesh Telecentre Network), a coalition of organizations for fostering Telecentre movement in Bangladesh, so that the learners of rural area can download and read the books from Telecentres. This initiative will allow schools to start classes at the right time.
  • Curricula and syllabi must be based on ICT and intellectually rich; And sufficiently broad to address children’s developmental needs in all domains.
  • At present in Bangladesh children do not find schools interesting due to lack of proper teaching-learning process. So, Computer aided learning program may be introduced.
  • The teachers do not have adequate facilities to upgrade their skills along with the up gradation of curriculum. ICTs may be helpful for teachers to improve their skills.
  • There is an optional course on Computers in the secondary schools, the course curriculum is outdated and there is little opportunity for hands-on practice. Telecentre may improve this situation.
  • The lack of local content is also a barrier to increase the use of ICTs in schools. Without locally relevant content, ICTs are of no use to learners. So, content development is now a priority of Government.

The present Government declared the vision of Digital Bangladesh by 2021. The Government repeated its dream through the National Budget of 2009-10. But it is very true that this dream will not be fulfilled, if we are not able to spread Telecentre across the country.

References
1. Associates for Community and Population Research (2007). 2006 Follow-Up (Wave 1) Evaluation of the Reach and Impact of Sisimpur. Dhaka, Bangladesh: ACPR.
2. Habib, S.M.A. (Ed). (2007). Towards knowledge Society: A Handbook of Selected initiatives in South Asia. Dhaka, Bangladesh: D.Net.
3. Raihan, A. (Ed.). (2007). Pallitathya-An Information and Knowledge System for the Poor and Marginalized: Experience from Grassroots in Bangladesh (abridged version). Dhaka, Bangladesh: D.Net.
4. Raihan, A. (2009).Seminar paper, presented in Centre for Policy Dialogue’s National Conference on Development with Equity and Justice: Immediate Tasks for the Newly Elected Government held on March 28-29.
5. Research and Computing Service. (2006). The Educational Impact of Sisimpur: An Experimental Study of Children’s Learning. Dhaka, Bangladesh: RCS.
6. Servon, L.J. (2002). Bridging the Digital Divide: Technology, Community and Public Policy. Berlin, Germany: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecentre
8. http://www.pallitathya.org/
9. http://www.clp.net.bd/


Author: Programme Associate, D.Net (Development Research Network), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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Roy

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