Technology has been making inroads into education for decades. But the mobile revolution is changing education in more fundamental ways than just providing a new gadget that delivers information. Mobile devices with appropriate content and learning tools, particularly tablets, are changing the way we learn and think about learning. The connectedness of people has led societies to learn and experience new things in a more convenient way. Searching through for a precise definition one could not help but agree on UNESCO explaining the phenomenon as “Mobile learning involves the use of mobile technology, either alone or in combination with other information and communication technology (ICT), to enable learning anytime and anywhere. Learning can unfold in a variety of ways: people can use mobile devices to access educational resources, connect with others, or create content, both inside and outside classrooms. Mobile learning also encompasses efforts to support broad educational goals such as the effective administration of school systems and improved communication between schools and families”.
M-education implies the process of learning through personal electronics like smartphones, tablets, and social media channels etc. Learning through mobile is the fastest and most innovative mode of learning in today’s world. Using mobile tools for creating learning aids and materials has become an important part of informal learning.
M-learning is convenient as it is accessible virtually from anywhere. Sharing is almost instantaneous among everyone using the same content, which leads to the reception of instant feedback and tips. M-learning also brings strong portability by replacing books and notes with small devices, filled with tailored learning contents.
Pakistan’s traditional school system is disappointing and huge reforms are required in the whole setup. As in the Education Development Index, which combines all educational access, measures that Pakistan lies at the bottom with Bangladesh, in the region, and is considerably below in comparison to Sri Lanka.
The Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) shows, Pakistan’s performance is weak, on the health and education related elements of competitiveness, when compared with other countries in the region like India, China, Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka and Malaysia. For this reason, our government must realize the potential of m-education and with help of technology it can improve the functioning of education system.
Pakistan’s adult literacy rate in comparison to other South Asian states is also low; despite the fact that youth can bring prosperity into the country, they are still deprived of many educational facilities in Pakistan. There are total 255,044 institutes in the country out of which 176,405 in rural and 48,766 institutions in urban areas of Pakistan. Whereas only 19% of this number is contributed by private sector and more than half i.e. 62% are state-owned institutions.
[pull_quote_left]Mobile learning involves the use of mobile technology, either alone or in combination with other ICT tools to enable learning anytime and anywhere -UNESCO[/pull_quote_left]
While, almost 42 million of Pakistani children are enrolled in the education sector, a same number of children are outside of the schooling system that makes ensuring the basic fundamental right provision even more challenging which says that “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”
Therefore, if the Government is serious to overcome this challenge it has to move fast and it has to move now. One of the important element for meeting this challenge would be introducing M-Education or e-learning into education sector as it can bring huge changes in shortest possible time. While the importance of m-learning cannot be over emphasized to overcome the huge challenge that is on hand, the other important fact is the importance of the right strategy for implementation of m-education.
For an M-education model to succeed and be adopted it must have a content strategy, Learning Management System, Social Interfaces and access to other asset with affordable devices and connectivity customized to local environment and should revolve around the student, which is the most important stakeholder.
In the last couple of years we have seen numerous schemes that were introduced by the Government to impart technology intervention into our education system. But unfortunately most of them faced failure due to inappropriate strategies. One such initiative was “Prime Minister Youth Laptop Scheme” by the present Government as a way to overcome the educational challenge.
The fundamental objective of this scheme was to enhance the scope of research and increase the access to information technology. A budget of Rs.4.0 billion was allocated for this scheme in the financial year 2014 and 100,000 laptops were to be distributed among the students. For this purpose a separate assembling plant was established via a contract between Haier China and Government of Pakistan. The authorizing body, Higher Education Commission (HEC) was busy in devising distribution criteria for the students, which shows that an unnecessary attention was given to the process of distribution rather than the end results.
[pull_quote_left]PM Laptop scheme was an utter failure with majority laptops being sold in the market for 1/4th the price [/pull_quote_left]
Also most of these laptops without any content strategy or connectivity found their way in the local electronic markets being sold at less than half price because there was no check and balance strategy about who is getting it and how the laptop will be beneficial to the student. Although given free, they were poised to fail as the scheme was mishandled, wasting Tax Payers Money for political gains.
[pull_quote_right]If the Government is serious to overcome the educational challenges, it has to move fast and it has to move now [/pull_quote_right]
Another important element for an education system is to meet the criteria of its effectiveness to succeed through performance based outcomes. M-education could probably play a facilitating role to meet these important criteria:
- Access: Both physical approach and utilization of existing facilities can be further enhanced via M-education.
- Equity: Just and fair opportunities and access for all age learners can also be ensured via M-education.
- Quality: Quality is mandatory for both teachers and students in order to meet the current and future academic and business challenges. And it can only be achieved through the introduction of fast and innovative ways of education through M-education.
“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”, according to Nelson Mandela and the world can be better only through easy ways of learning. Smart education is not a fantasy in 21st century rather it has become a reality worldwide. Prosperous regions like America and Europe had already achieved milestones in it but unfortunately Pakistan is not aware of the worth and future of m-learning.
[pull_quote_left]Smart education is not a fantasy in 21st century rather it has become a reality worldwide[/pull_quote_left]
There are some huge barriers that are not letting educationalist to improve the traditional education system of Pakistan. For example Availability of Physical Facilities, Electricity, Gender disparity, Regional disparity, untrained teachers and lack of funds are hindering the basic growth of our education system.
Unfortunately the progress of Ministry of Education is not satisfactory enough in this regard. Hence in order to bring reforms into snail-paced performance of our Ministry, the intervention of technology is mandatory. There is dire need to introduce the alternative ways of learning into our traditional education system; which includes:
- Awareness about M-education
- M-mobile: Educational Applications
- Online libraries
- Distant learning: Computerized education program (virtual classrooms)
- Social networks/platforms
- Affordable devices and connectivity
Affordable devices and low cost internet packages after the launch of 3G and 4G in Pakistan has made the dream of M-education more realistic. Only a couple of years back a 3G smartphone that cost more than Rs. 30,000 is now available for less than Rs. 5,000/= only making it within reach of common man in Pakistan and the prices are likely to fall in future as well. With the provision of such low cost devices to the students, the education system can be improved or facilitated with little effort. If done appropriately, students can learn through next generation technologies especially data services & connected devices.
In order to make this effective, the Government needs to be more thoughtful and vigilant to design and take initiatives that can bring technology into our education system and pave the way towards M-education.
[pull_quote_left]The Government of Pakistan need to devise result-oriented strategies which must include better content and affordable mobile devices in order to revolutionize the education system through M-education model[/pull_quote_left]
In Pakistan, more than half of population is living below poverty line; which means that access to education is not possible for this half of population due to their low income and expensive education. Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world and according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it is 60% and Pakistan stands at 160th in the world. Many schools and colleges are entering the education industry especially in various big cities of Pakistan but those living in rural areas are at a greater loss. Even if children want to study, they can’t, due to lack of resources. Government is increasing its budget for education sector each year but unfortunately no positive results have emerged. Low cost devices with appropriate content strategy can help bridge this gap to provide access to the better standards of education even in far flung areas of Pakistan.
The Government of Pakistan needs to devise result-oriented strategies which must include better content and affordable mobile devices in order to revolutionize the education system through M-education model.
Few interesting initiatives have already been taken by both Public & Private sectors institutions including the E-learn.punjab by Punjab Government, Elap.pk (e-learning), PSL Pakistan, UNESCO Projects, MDi Pakistan and Taleem-E Paksitan. Taleem-E-Pakistan is the largest online database of academic contents in Pakistan. In 2014, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), largest ICT services provider of the country also launched an online education program ‘Illuminating Learning Movement (ILM)’ which aimed at providing customized and interactive e-learning solutions to underprivileged students. Smart learning can improve our education system once its worth has been recognized by educationalists and government. As it is State’s responsibility to provide free and compulsory education to children between the ages of five to sixteen years in a manner that is determined by law.
[pull_quote_right]Whether we like it or not, whether we are ready for it or not, mobile learning is the next step in along tradition of technology facilitated learning[/pull_quote_right]
Pakistan is a place where education is really important for the development of the country. More the generation is educated, greater will be the achievements. The government should look into the progress of how various neighboring countries have been interpreting the post-2015 education strategy, such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — all of whom boast higher literacy rates and learning outcomes than Pakistan.
For this type of achievements we have to unite together and work for education. Some of the private institutes are offering mobile education in the country, whereas others are still following the old patterns. It will improve our education system and will help us in development of a student. It is important to bring new technology into the classroom which delivers education material and promote learning.
[pull_quote_left]Public & Private sectors institutions have taken some noteworthy initiatives including the E-learn.punjab by Punjab Government[/pull_quote_left]
Mobile learning can be used to diversify the types of learning activities students participate in. Mobile learning supports the learning process rather than being integral to it. Mobiles provide relatively inexpensive opportunities than the PC sand Laptops. Mobiles can also prove continuous and significant support for the learners. A huge advantage of mobile education is that, it decreases training costs and it is a fastest way of learning as well.
The age of mobile learning is here to stay, what we need is to take advantage of it. Whether we like it or not, whether we are ready for it or not, mobile learning is the next step in along tradition of technology facilitated learning. It will feature new strategies, practices, tools,applications, and resources to realize the promise of pervasive,personal, and connected learning. It responds to the on-demand learning interests of connected citizens in an information-centric world.