China, the largest developing country in the world, has more than one-fifth of the world's total population. The large gap between the wealthy and the poor is widening. Just by focusing on the economic development, one can never be able to solve the problem. Instead, it will make the situation worse off. Conversely, by supplying the country's citizens with proper education, it will definitely be a more practical solution in bridging the social gap. The central government in China has been putting in a lot of effort to promote the process of learning and the pursue of higher education. ICT, which consists of computers, the Internet and various broadcasting mediums, et-cetera, can be used as tools during the process of learning.
In recent years, both the computers and the Internet are considered as a crucial tool which aims to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the education system in the future. E-learning refers to a learning process which utilizes an information network for course deliveries, interactions and/or facilitation. It is a potential function of ICT of the future education system even though it is still in its infancy.
It is widely believed that ICT will render sufficient aid to the poor by providing more people with access to education, while attempting to enhance the quality of education. The central government has taken many measures and actions to boost ICT in education. The most accepted and well-liked use of ICT in China's education is distance education. Traditionally, people use radio and television as tools for information delivery. In modern times, with the development of ICT, China has formed a systematic network for E-learning. In the 1990s, the Chinese government funded the first national education and research computer network: China Education and Research Network (CERNET). This Network enables connectivity to the global internet and has always been the foremost most significant aspect of the Chinese Internet Community. The future opportunities for E-learning in China are currently perceived to be optimistic.
2.1 Educational Technology in China
Utilization of technology in the Chinese education system began in the 1920's. The very primitive usage of technology for the use of education took place in the School of Agriculture of JinlingUniversity in 1992. The lecturers spread the word of the agricultural knowledge through the usage of both films and slides combined with recording explanations on phonograph. After 1949, the audio-visual education was introduced to numerous schools which consist of different learning levels and standards. With the prevalence of radio and television, technology in education began to develop rapidly. However, it is the implementation of reform and transparency from the outside world which allows policies to be implemented so as to accept imported advanced technology which will most likely bring China's education system into a new era of the next level. During the modern years, the Chinese government has been paying much more attention to the usage of high technology, especially with regards to ICT, for the usage of national education. Modern distance education is one of the key projects which are aimed to develop the education system in China, in particular, for the rural areas. (View more)
2.2 The Benefits of ICT for Education
2.3.1 ICT helps enlarge access to education.
It is ICT that makes learning anytime and anywhere. E-resources usually are available online 24 hours everyday. Learners can start learning whenever they are free. Where there is a computer with access to the Internet, people can begin their exploration of knowledge online. Furthermore, through the Internet, learners can get remote learning resources which are not accessible in local areas. A large number of online information on various subjects makes it possible for learners to learn beyond the textbook.
2.3.2 ICT helps students to prepare themselves for the workplace
ICT helps students to prepare themselves for the workplace where ICT are becoming more and more important. In order to be competitive in an increasingly globalizing job market, it is essential for one to have the ability of making full use of ICT proficiently.
2.3.3 ICT helps enhance the quality of education
In order for educational expansion, it is critical to improve the quality of education and training. ICT is considered as the dominant tool to improve the quality of education. Videos, television and multimedia computer software combine text, sound and colorful images to provide learners contents which are both interesting and meaningful. This can be a motivation for learning. On the other hand, use of ICT also enhances teacher training.
2.3.4 ICT helps to create a conducive and effective learning environment
Computers and the Internet enable new styles of teaching and learning which make class more active. Students are not only asked to learn the knowledge but to develop the ability of self-learning which will benefit their life-long learning. ICT allows learners to explore and discover rather than merely listen and remember.
2.3 Impacts of ICT
2.4.1 Impact of the Internet to students
The Internet opens a door for students to explore knowledge. It provides students with a huge number of information. And it can be used to advantage acquisition purposes by serving as an alternative to outdated books. Compared to traditional learning resources, E-resources contain larger volume of information and are easier to get for those who have access to the Internet. However, it is not the matter of the quantity of material: the impact of the Internet to students is that the overwhelming breadth and depth of information have made students using Internet inefficiently. They cannot effectively choose the useful information for their study. Therefore, one objective of Education is to help students to deal with the information explosion by developing their abilities of critical thinking. Students should be able to filter irrelevant and inaccurate materials and pick up the useful and authorized information.
2.4 Challenges for the Future Development of Education in China
2.5.1 Digital divide
Digital divide between rural and urban areas in China. The Chinese government should provide subsidies for rural regions to set ICT facilities and access to the Internet. Nowadays, the problem is more than E-learning. The basic issue is to teach learners in rural areas how to use computer and surf the Internet
2.5.2 The high cost of education
The high cost of education: Even in urban areas of China, people would consider the cost of education. Note that, with large amount of money invested in new educational technology development and application, the cost of education will be more expensive than traditional one. Whether high-tech based education is cost-effective is really a consideration.
2.5.3 Culture influence
Culture influence: in tradition education, Chinese students are forced to learn rather than enjoying learning. They feel they are subservient to a teacher. This could be a problem since there is no physical tutor in E-learning. The focus of education in China should be the development of autonomic learning.
2.5.4 Language barrier
Language barrier: E-learning resource should be in Chinese since most of the E-learners are not good at English. This requires high quality of translation from other language resources into Chinese version. Traditional direct word-for-word translations are not adequate
Ariwa. E. & Li R. (August 4 - 7, 2005). The impact of e-Learning on China Education and Research Network CERNET. UK: LondonMetropolitanUniversity. Retrieved from http://www.elearning.au.edu/research/elearning_conference_2005/Proceeding2005%20and%20Book/PP28.pdf
Friesner. T. & Hart, M. (February 2004). A Cultural Analysis of e-Learning for China. Electronic Journal on e-Learning, Volume 2, Issue 1, 81-88. Retrieved from http://www.ejel.org/volume-2/vol2-issue1/issue1-art24-friesner-hart.pdf
Tinio. V. L. ICT in Education. New York: Bureau for Development Policy. Retrieved from
Picture of 2.1 courtesy of http://www.usc.edu/schools/medicine/education/index.html
Picture of 2.2 courtesy of http://www.lazyenvironmentalist.com/pages/GreenInternetChild.JPG
Picture of 2.5.4 courtesy of http://www.bmz.de/en/images/BilderPress/schulbildung_in_china_teaser.jpg