Focus Session Report
Education and Awareness
E-EDUCATION: SET TO BOOM
"The next Internet dot coms are going to be in education. Get in the business, do it now. We started out as an ISP in 1991. Today, 52% of our income from community centres/internet access booths comes from education and training programmes."
Jose Soriano, RCP Peru
WHAT KIND OF EDUCATION, FOR WHOM?
Four types of training are needed to build e-trade competency:
* High End Training for ITspecialists. (Example: Software engineering)
* Mid and Low End Training for employees. (Example: Web-enabled services)
* E-literacy for the general public. (Example: cybercafes)
* E-management for senior managers in export-related business and government. (Example: conferences to shape strategic vision about how technology can be used to achieve key business goals)
Communities have core competences that they must concentrate upon. This is the only thing that gives them a competitive edge in a knowledge-based world. (Without local content and training, there will be nothing to talk about internationally. The key is to exchange information between local networks.)
WHY RECONSIDER EDUCATION? A CHANGING WORLD
Today, rapid changes in society are being driven far more by technology than by anything else. More than 1 billion web pages exist, with 3 million more added each day. There are two different, though linked, phenomena: technological developments themselves, and the explosion of information and data available via the Internet.
Educational systems are unprepared for technology. We need to rethink what we teach (contents) and how we teach it (methodology) and create new paradigms.
For example, there is an explosion in demand for skilled technical workers. But rather than train people to be certified for specific products, train them to understand the underlying concepts at a deeper level. Do they learn about database concepts, or specific database packages like Oracle?
Change is happening so fast that we need to teach people how to think and how to learn, rather than concentrate on training that will become quickly outdated.
Information cannot be transferred in traditional channels anymore because there is no time to reflect on it. What we need to do instead is share knowledge through linked communities. We need to build networks and tap into them as we need them. Then complementary networks link between each other.
HOW? EDUCATION THROUGH EXPERIENCE; LEARN BY DOING
* Education systems need to move away from book-based provision of information.
Who has learned about Internet through a book? Most of us learned from each other and by working directly on the computer.
* On the job training
As Mr. Ricupero of UNCTAD said in the opening session of this Executive Forum, the IT revolution is the biggest one since the invention of the Gutenberg press. However, most education systems are still based on books... Perhaps we need to return to an earlier model, that of the Middle Ages, to encourage a greater emphasis upon apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
* Learning at your own pace, with your own style.
The Internet allows educators to train students in a tailor-made fashion, rather than with curricula in which everyone must move at the same pace, and with the same methods and styles.
* Alternative learning systems, community based systems.
The amount of available information is growing faster than can be digested. But we don't need to digest it all. We need to be selective, by tapping into networks to access knowledge and information as we need it, in a focused manner.
* Re-examine training policies in universities.
Some students in universities are studying IT related materials and have never seen satellite dishes, routers or computers. You need to touch it to understand it.
* Teachers need to be co-learners and facilitators, not masters.
We need to move away from formal channels of knowledge. In today's world, children are often teaching parents computer literacy skills.
* Build technological fluency.
And start young. Technological fluency can be learned like a language, naturally, with products that help children build computer literacy.
SOME RESOURCE ISSUES
Governments manage and run the education system. But governments do not have the resources to single-handedly invest in the changes we need. Education needs to open up to the private sector to get these changes. This means we need to re-examine things like:
* Role of educational institutes of major IT corporations
* Role of ISPs and community centres/Internet kiosks
* Sharing of costs of education between government and private sector.