The British Council and English in Action have jointly organised a two-day seminar on “Education, Technology, and Women: Key Issues for Development” on 16 and 17 September 2014. The policy seminar started this morning in Dhaka, offering a timely platform to discuss and influence policy agendas surrounding education and technology and their access by women in Bangladesh and around the world.
More than 150 participants, including government officials, international donor representatives, academics, journalists, and other national and international stakeholders, have gathered for the two-day seminar to work towards the inclusion of women in educational technology and effective implementation of quality education through innovative and user-friendly technologies.
The seminar will provide a forum for key stakeholders in Bangladesh to discuss needs, share experiences and identify ways of working together to address key areas, such as
• The needs and priorities regarding appropriate technologies for developing teaching and learning, particularly in English teaching and learning, and particularly for women
• What measures are currently being taken to address them in Bangladesh and beyond
• The importance of evaluations, which look at whether teaching and learning practices and outcomes change, as a result of these measures
• The importance of multilateral partnerships and public/private partnerships
Speaking at the opening, British High Commissioner Robert W Gibson said, “The UK government hopes that the participants at this policy seminar will work together for the benefit of women in Bangladesh and around the world, sharing experiences, insights and understanding to develop clear, practical recommendations that will inform future work through educational technology. I believe with the expertise in this room we can identify the issues that need immediate attention across this crucial agenda.”
In his opening remarks, Professor A K Azad Chowdhury, Chairman, University Grants Commission, cited Bangladesh as an example for the positive impact of education, technology, and empowerment of women. “Let us hope that through this seminar we can recognise what the government has done and also ensure quality education, access to technology, and empowering women is made a priority to be taken forward. A nation can change through these and as a country, we are already an example in this revolution.”
English in Action Team Leader, Dr. Johan Bentinck, and the British Council Country Director, Mr. Brendan McSharry, opened the first session of the seminar with welcome addresses, which focused both on the need and potential for development through education, technology and giving access and opportunity to women in these areas.
“This policy seminar is very timely. At the time of great economic growth, women are still not realizing their full potential as economic and social development agents. This seminar that the British Council and the DFID project English in Action are organising, will explore the key issues for development and say how we can add $18bn dollars to the economy if women get quality access to skills training and awareness both with regard to digital technology and to better English language tuition. Then Bangladesh can become a solid middle-income country years before the target date of 2021. We owe it to the whole nation to facilitate full and equal access to technology and English communication skills.” Stated the British Council Country Director.
Dr. Johan Bentinck, English in Action- Team Leader, informed the participants that, there is great interest and investment in Educational Technology, as a tool to improve teaching and learning, with the potential to bring quality learning opportunities to school communities and to women, who may be marginalised. This policy seminar brings together representatives from Bangladesh and internationally, to discuss the challenges of realising this potential, and examples of successful programmes and approaches.
The Access to Information (a2i) Programme Policy Advisor and leading advocate for Digital Bangladesh, Mr. Anir Chowdhury, in his keynote presentation shared the success of the digital revolution in Bangladesh despite many challenges. Under a2i’s guidance and support, the Ministry of Education has established Multimedia Classroom (MMC) in 20,500 secondary schools where teaching-learning is being made more enjoyable and participatory by the use of digital materials in the classrooms.
Among the other keynote speakers set to address the seminar is Tom Power, Programme Director, English in Action, the Open University-UK, Dr. Gary Motteram, University of Manchester, and gender specialist, Ms. Ronda Zelezny-Green, who will deliver their remarks on day one and day two of the seminar.
The policy seminar’s goal is to inform and influence policies across Bangladesh, taking lessons from national and international experiences. The organisers believe it is a crucial time for discussion and debate on the priorities for a coherent plan across these topics.
In a reflection of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that education, technology and women empowerment receives a place of prominence on the development agenda of Bangladesh, Hon’ble Minister of Education, Mr. Nurul Nahid MP delivered the closing remarks on 17 September 2014.