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Empowering the Youth of Developing World:With the Revolutionary Information and Communication Technology Abbas Edalat Imperial College, London Science and Arts Foundation May 31, 2001 United Nation’s Year of Dialogue of Civilizations
Overview 1. Digital technology as the vehicle of a paradigm shift in education 2. The Internet: A global equalizer? 3. Science and Arts Foundation: the experience in Iran • 4. An Action Program to empower the Youth of Developing World
The Revolution in Education • Digital libraries of all human knowledge • and culture are made available within seconds to • anyone, anywhere in the world. • New forms of communication e.g. email, e-groups, • on-line chat, video-conferencing, e-university etc. • turns the world into a global classroom. • Representation and retrieval of knowledge with • multimedia facilitates the expression and learning of sophisticated concepts and ideas. • Fundamental skills such as spelling, grammar • checking, language translation, calculation and processing data are automated.
From the realm of educational scarcity to the realm of unlimited resources: • Education becomes learner-centered rather than teacher-centered and enquiry-driven rather than textbook-driven. • The dichotomy between learning and research is resolved: Learning becomes an enjoyable creative act. • The boundaries between disciplines, between primary, secondary and higher education are blurred. Curriculum is loosened to become inclusive and to aid the enquiring and autonomous student in self-directed development.
The Social Consequences: • Cooperation and collaboration using the Internet replace competition and ranking as the underlying motivation in education. • The content of education becomes more • internationalist and less nationalistic. • Tolerance, human rights, peace, pluralism, • Human solidarity and global environmental issues can be effectively promoted.
Not just a dream! • These are realistic potentials already • within reach in many developed countries. • The information and communication technology presents a gigantic challenge to humanity. • We need the vision and the courage to act • in order to realise this great ideal.
A Historic Turning Point • For the first time, we have a truly empowering technology, which can bridge the gap between the developing and the developed world. • World Economic Forum, Dec 99: Left by itself, the Internet will sharpen the digital divide. • The Internet and the ICT can become a global equaliser only if we make it available free for the children and youth in the developing world.
Unbalanced Digital Distribution • In coming years: • 28.32% of all computers will be in the USA • Europe will have 26.73% • and countries like India will share only 1.08%.
A Dilemma? • "Information is only one of many needs. Email is no substitute for vaccines, and satellites cannot provide clean water. High profile technology projects risk overshadowing basic priorities." Human Development Report 1999: Chapter 2, New technologies and the global race for knowledge; UNDP 1999 • However, mass access to the Internet and ITC can accelerate awareness of such needs, and facilitate development of solutions to tackle them effectively by empowering the youth of the developing world, the hope of our future. • We are only a victim of cultural lag if we fail to fully appreciate the empowering role of the ICT.
Empowering the Youth in Iran • Science and Arts Foundation (SAF) was launched in March 1999 at Imperial College, London: • To provide Computer/Internet sites and training for schools, universities and libraries. • Using two strategic resources: • (1) Universities in Iran (2) Expatriates
Roshd High School, Naazi-Abad,Tehran • Five international Olympiad medals • Over 90% acceptance in university entrance • 20% of former graduates aid in teaching • Poor library and labs, no modern computers • Two hundred school children slept on the floor
SAF’s First Project: Roshd • First school computer site in Iran, May 99 • 15 Pentium 233 PC’s including two servers • Dial-up Internet connection via Sharif University (now replaced with leased line) • Hosted two successful IT seminars for all state schools in Tehran in 2000
Completed Computer/Internet Sitesin May 1999-May 2001 • 44 school sites, 18 boys, 24 girls: 18 in Tehran (3 Middle Schools) 3 in Shahr-e Ray 2 in Varamin 4 in Islam Shahr 2 in Gaz-o Borkhar, Isfahan 11 in Guilan 2 in Kashan 2 in Tabriz • 4 Orphanages in Tehran • Raad Rehabilitation Goodwill Complex • Sherafat teachers training college • University of Tehran Medical School • 5 scientific and cultural centres • 3 villages in Qamsar, Qazvin, and Jolfa
School Information Centrehttp://www.schoolnet.ir Was set up in Oct. 99 at Sharif University: • It provides Internet access to schools. • It trains teachers in Information Technology and the Internet. • It produces and downloads educational websites for the use of school children in Iran. • It organizes: (1) homepages for schools, (2) discussion bulletin boards for schools, (3) collaborative projects in particular between schools inside and outside Iran.
First Iranian School Joins I*EARNwww.iearn.org • International Education & Resource Network • I*EARN organises school collaborative projects in 90 countries. • It enables children across the world to use the Internet interactively as a means of education and communication. • Hedayat School (Abuzar Square, Tehran) joined I*EARN in August 2000. • A team of Iranian teachers will participate in I*EARN conference in Cape Town in July 2001.
Hedayat Wins Life-Link Certificatewww.life-link.org • Life-Link Friendship-Schools is an independent NGO to promote contact and cooperation between young people around the world, through active participation in shared projects, vital for our time e.g. Environment, Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Constructive Collaboration. • Over 400 peace actions organized at 140 schools, including UNESCO’s associated schools, in 42 countries in the year 2000. • Many SAF supported high schools have participated in Life-Link projects. • Hedayat High School was awarded the Life-Link recognition Certificate 2000.
Assembly Line at Hedayat School • SAF has set an an assembly line in Hedayat School. • 15-17 year old children put together the hardware components to assemble PC’s which are then used to set up computer sites in other schools. • Each PC (Pentium III) is assembled on average in 13 minutes. • It gives invaluable training experience to the children; produces good quality cheap computers. • This has opened the way for production line to enter into secondary schools, breaking traditional barriers and boundaries.
A Program to Empower the Youth • Extending the SchoolNet program across Iran: 26 School Information Centres at local universities in the 26 states in Iran, each supporting several dozens of schools. • Extending the program to university students and libraries across the country • Setting up IT centres in deprived neighbourhoods in order to: 1. Promote ITC literacy for the general public 2. Provide problem-solving Internet-based information centres for local professions 3. Initiate e-commerce for local producers
An Action Program to Empower the youth of the Developing World National governments, NGO’s, the private sector, international organizations in particular the UN should mobilize their resources to: • Provide free computer/Internet sites • for schools, universities, libraries and • community centers in the developing world. • Organize worldwide teachers training in ICT. • Provide free distance-learning education for all, in the spirit of the recent decision by MIT. • Promote an education which is learner-centered, enquiry-driven, inclusive, collaborative, humanistic and internationalist.
The Greatest Historic Opportunity • The youth of the developing world, future leaders of 4/5 of the world’s population, has the potential for outstanding achievements. • They can be empowered by IT & Internet to make a better future world. • The international community, the NGO’s and national governments have a historic responsibility to accomplish this ideal. • Failure to act now will produce an infinitely more divided world with all its potential catastrophes for the human race. • Acting effectively to reach out to the youth of the developing world will bring us to the dawn of a new age of Enlightenment.