Distance Learning and E-Education in Southeast Asia

E-learningAsiaDistance learning has been identified by the World Bank and UNDP as a potentially valuable tool in meeting the Millennium Development Goals in Southeast Asia, since according to the Bank distance learning can provide “new and innovative means to bring educational opportunities,” “especially for those who have historically been excluded, such as populations in rural areas, women facing social barriers, and students with disabilities.” While there are some established and successful examples of the use of distance learning in higher education in Southeast Asia, there has been relatively less research on promoting distance education at the primary and secondary schools levels.

However, given the directive of the second Millennium Development Goal to “ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling,” recently increasing attention has been given to the potential role that distance education could play in attaining universal educational access at all levels. This paper will survey the state of the field of ICTs for development in distance education at the primary, secondary and higher education levels in Southeast Asia, and discuss future directions for these.

Three general approaches to the uses of multimedia broadcasting in education will be discussed: (1) Direct classroom teaching; (2) School broadcasting; and (3) General education programming. Recent case studies from ICT in distance education projects in Southeast Asia will be presented for each approach. For the direct classroom teaching approach, for example, Indonesia’s “Packet A” program, the only large-scale attempt to provide distance primary education to children who lack access to primary school, will be discussed.

In the field of school broadcasting, numerous institutions of higher education in Southeast Asia have successfully piloted online versions of degree programs, and other fully online “euniversities” have emerged, allowing students who have faced traditional barriers to higher education to obtain vocational training and degrees online. In Malaysia, for example, the government launched a distance-learning program known as Multimedia

Technology Enhancement Operations (METEOR), a consortium of eleven public universities providing online courses to approximately 20,000 students nationwide. The trajectory of the growth of these online institutions will be analyzed, and their potential future impacts considered. The emerging field of Internet-enhanced distance learning for primary education will be given particular attention, with analysis of new research and case studies from UNESCO, the World Bank, and other institutions.

The vision of community telecenters as potentially creating “virtual” schools for students in Southeast Asia who lack access to classrooms will be considered. Case studies from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Southeast Asian Islamic schools will be considered.

Conclusions and Future Directions The report of UNESCO’s E-9 initiative on distance education in the nine high-population countries calls for increased research into existing programs in order to assess their potential for expansion at a larger scale. Consideration will be made of the challenges to e-educational development in Southeast Asia, including the costs of computer infrastructure. Strategies to address such challenges will be discussed, and potential future directions for digital and e-learning technologies in Southeast Asia will be assessed.

Created by LYNCH Kathleen H.

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