Can open ICT4D shape future of rural education?

Full title: Can open ICT4D shape future of rural education? Innovations in Sri Lanka Telecenters

150 Rural Telecenters of Sri Lanka and Shilpa Sayura have innovated rural education development by catalyzing the power of ICTs to increase the access to essential knowledge in local languages. This initiative providing open e learning services for national curriculum at Telecenters, developed an ICT powered open platform to transform hierarchical learning to open learning as a solution to rural educational problems. This inclusive, participatory and collaborative development is a fine example of open ICT4D to shape future societies.

Nenasala is a community owned heterogeneous Telecenter network in Sri Lanka. Shilpa Sayura is a local language open e learning platform with content for national curriculum. Both are collaborative socio economic arrangements of e-Sri Lanka project. The experimental Shilpa Sayura pilot matured during past three years replicating in 150 Telecenters and establishing of an open education network of Telecenters.

This research refers to the working paper on Open ICT4D, Matthew Smith, Nathan J Engler, Gideon Christian, Kathleen Diga, Ahmed Rashid and Kathleen Flynn-Dapaah, IDRC, 2009, which suggests open ICT4D as a Hypothesis. This paper refers to the recent research on the Impact of Shilpa Sayura e Learning and sustaining Telecenter networks in order to improve the understanding on “Open education at Telecenters for knowledge society development” in the context of open ICT4D.

The paper presents principals of “openness” used by Shilpa Sayura & Nenasala for ensuring motivation, collaboration and innovation in open education and approaches to foster openness; presents the methodologies in the context of openness; challenges and needs; adaptations and impact with four case studies of Telecenters providing open learning. The case studies aimed to find out how ICTs catalyzed Open learning? What adaptations, innovations impact improvements and what changes were resulted in the communities? How open learning impact knowledge society development? and what are the implications of open ICT4D for shaping future societies? And how this innovation can influence policy in a pro-development direction?

The research intends to compare open learning with existing education systems to find inter-relationships in reach, impact and openness and analyzes how this experimental research model could be replicated locally and globally? What prerequisites, policy and other and needs to be satisfied to create an inspiring future educational model for social innovation catalyzed by open ICT4D.

The paper intends to inspire a discussion on “Open education in the context of learning freedom?” by taking the Nenasala & Shilpa Sayura combination as an example to find how it meets modern education needs that are aimed at enhancing the learning by revising the known, exploring the unknown to construct new knowledge and meanings and the significance of ICTs that helped creating an improved and networked society among 150 Telecenter communities.

The conclusions made from the research are that ICTs significantly catalyzes open learning at Telecenters which is a replicable globally model to serve rural knowledge needs. Open education is a new approach to transform developing word and emphasizes using of local language, facilitating of inclusion, participation and collaboration to yield better results and encourage further research to improve the understanding of open education at Telecenters and its implications for ICT4D to shape future societies.

Authors: Niranjan Meegammana, Murali Khrishna, Keeragolle Dhammasara Himi and Rasika Sampath

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