Page 6 of 7THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
In concluding the meta-survey of ICT integration in education in the Asia Pacific region, Farrell and Wachholz (2004) aver that although the majority of countries in the region are still in the early stages of adopting ICT tools in educational systems, the situation is changing rapidly. A shift is taking place from donor-supported, NGO-led, small-scale, pilot projects to systemic integration informed by national government policies and multi-stakeholder-led implementation processes. However, what is disconcerting is that these changes are taking place in the school sector only and the spin-offs in the non-formal sector are not as evident.
The costs associated with setting up ICT infrastructure are forcing many governments to make difficult choices. For most national governments, the priority is primary education. Ironically, the pressure to achieve EFA goals could be forcing a number of national governments to sideline the education of out-of-school youth and non-literate adults. Similarly, the pressure to produce the necessary human capital for a ‘knowledge-based’ economy is resulting in greater investments being made in formal higher education systems.
While governments worldwide have signed up to the UN goal of a 50 percent reduction in illiteracy by 2015, actual investments in the programs that will deliver these goals are abysmally small. Torres (2002) laments that there is a mismatch between rhetoric and practice even among the international agencies as the ‘expanded’ and ‘renewed’ visions proposed in all of the major recent international declarations and commitments — in basic education (EFA 1990), adult education and learning (CONFINTEA V 1997), and literacy (UN Literacy Decade 2002) — tend to remain on paper and are contradicted by the same international agencies that promoted them and that provide technical and financial assistance to the South.
But since a significant proportion of the population in developing countries is out of school and without the literacy skills that will enable them to contribute to economic and social development, governments ignore the non-formal education sector only at their own peril. To develop a cohesive society, increase national competitiveness, and achieve sustainable growth and development, governments need to put in place NFE programs that focus on developing social capital among marginalized communities (Lizardi 2002). Non-formal educational programs for youth and adults should become one of the global priorities of our time.
For this to happen, the formation of alliances among stake-holders across all sectors is vital. The Global Campaign for Education, a coalition of NGOs and trade unions working in over 100 countries for the right to free, good quality education for all, is attempting to play an advocacy role. The hope is that multi-sectoral partnerships and alliances will create a groundswell that can influence national governments and international agencies to honour their commitments, and ignite a global movement that will make quality education truly a right for all.
1 Rogers (2004) places much greater value on informal learning which for him is not always unintentional (as previously understood), but which is a natural activity that is continuous and highly individualized and contextualized. It is mainly through informal learning, rather than formal or non-formal learning, that a whole range of perceptions, attitudes, and skills are developed.