ERG SES D 02, Online Learning
Educational policy implementation can be conceptualised in terms of an ecological model that explores roles and relationships within a complex evolving environment. This presentation draws on an ecological model to examine Nepal’s implementation of its policy for ICT in education. The policy is developed by government and mandated to schools, but the government does not commit funding to resource infrastructures or to train teachers in ICT use. Instead, NGOs and particularly OLE, have stepped into the niche and provided resources and training in rural schools. Thus, two separate, though interconnecting, systems have evolved. This presentation examines their actions and interactions as components within an ecology. It explores how a largely symbiotic relationship has evolved that is to some extent successful in meeting immediate needs. It examines changes that are already developing in the ecology and considers changes that may occur in the future and discusses how these may impact on balances within the ecology and so on the future of ICT implementation in Nepal.
It draws on the findings of my recently completed doctoral research and re-analyses them in terms of an ecological model developed from Weaver-Hightower (2008).
The ecology of ICT education policy implementation in Nepal could be considered in terms of two systems, which are in current practice so interconnected that we propose they can usefully be considered as one ecological system. The first system evolves around government bodies which variously formulate and interpret policy, including the Ministry of Education, the Department of Education, the Curriculum Development Center (CDC), National Center for Educational Development (NCED), District Education Offices (DEO) (now renamed District Education Unit), and Resource Center (RC), and schools and their teachers who variously enact policy in their classrooms. The second system involves development non-government organisations (NGOs), who, in the absence of government investment, invest in providing ICT resources and training and the schools and teachers they supply. To an extent both systems operate separately: government articulates educational vision, creates policy, establishes administrative structures and funds some of the expenses of schools and some of the teachers’ salaries; NGOs, such as Open Learning Exchange, a United States based organisation that in Nepal as well as in other developing countries, develop their own programmes based loosely on government policy and directly provide ICT devices and infrastructure and some training to selected schools, but they are not accountable to government. They are accountable to other external bodies, as in the case of Open Learning Exchange which partners in Nepal with the World Food Programme. It can be said that NGOs have stepped into a niche created by the absence of government provisions for funding ICT and training teachers in its educational uses. At the practical operational level, these two separately evolving systems can be regarded as parts of one ecosystem that, temporarily at least, sustains policy and classroom use.
The study was a qualitative one, involving semi-structured interviews with sixteen teachers from five rural schools in various remote regions, classroom observation of twelve teachers from three schools and a study of documents detailing national education policies of Nepal, school reform plans and education acts. After the field work, these documents were read against observational and interview data in order to capture the complexities of practice within the rural context. The five rural schools were selected on the basis of their reported use of technology in their teaching and in order to reflect a range of the degree of impact by the 2015 earthquake. Teachers were interviewed in several sessions and in the first three schools’ classes were observed. Interviews and informal conversations were audio-recorded. Seven classes of each teacher from the three schools were observed in one month stay at each school and class observation notes were made daily. The classes of teachers from the fourth and fifth schools were not observed because the fourth school had lost its ICT infrastructure as other buildings in the 2015 earthquake and it was found that the fifth school kept the digital devices unused in its lab. The audio recording of the interviews and informal conversations were transcribed, translated and coded using NVivo and further refined by application of interpretive phenomenological analysis as suggested by Smith, Larkin and Flowers (2009). This article arises from a further analysis of the data and original findings in terms of an ecological model drawn from the work of Weaver-Hightower (2008).
The current level of success in implementing the ICT in education policy in rural schools in Nepal has been achieved by the work of two unconnected systems, the Department of Education and its operational bodies, and Open Learning Exchange and its agents, to variously provide for rural schools. None of the actors in the system, agency or individual, is responsible for the whole programme. Rather the actors in the ecology, as a whole, have developed roles and relationships according to niches that were available and needs and opportunities that they perceived. The interrelationship that evolved among them has sustained the survival of the policy the actors are currently involved in. To an extent, the two largely symbiotic systems have resulted in successful implementation of ICT in education in the resource-poor rural context of Nepal. The model is useful in explaining what is already occurring, but also that model helps to identify dangers that may occur. An ecology is the description of a living and changing collection of organisms and their relationship to each other and their environment. The model carries an implicit expectation that the relationships will continue to evolve and that some actors will gain power while others lose it and that new actors may develop to occupy new niches. It also carries an implicit expectation that the environment itself may change, either in a direction of growth, such as the emergence of new teaching strategies or of destruction, such as the loss of resources in the earthquakes. The model indicates the importance of looking at relationships and at what sustains or threatens them, as well as looking at new direction that is emerging and at what is likely to sustain or threaten them.
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