How Unequal Access to Technology Creates Challenges for Education in Vietnam - Adam Arthur
The problem of unequal access to technology in the classroom
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a number of global challenges related to education. One of these challenges is unequal access to educational technology. Vietnam is among the countries most affected by this change. As a result, this unequal access has an outsized impact on the operations of both conventional educational institutions and educational nonprofits such as Better Life Vietnam (BLV).
Though these challenges have existed prior, teachers could mitigate the difficulty of teaching in a limited-technology classroom through handwritten lesson plans and the use of physical resources such as chalk and construction paper. Teachers could also facilitate in-person exercises between students.
However, increased reliance on technology due to COVID-19 has exposed an already present gap between those who are able to move to an online educational model and those with limited access to online resources. The latter find themselves at a distinct disadvantage. In 2014, the World Bank reported that technical skills are in-demand among employers in Vietnam. This means that a lack of access to technology may exclude a number of students from a significant portion of the domestic job market – particularly as careers in Vietnam become more technologically-focused.
What can be done to address this problem?
There exist at least two options to address this problem going forward. These options are as follows:
Option 1: A private donation program that would supplement textbook donation programs, in this case focused principally on the donation or provision of computers, tablets, and other technological resources.
Option 2: An option that would be safe and effective once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided is the establishment of a computer lab with student internet access, comparable to Better Life Vietnam’s Books Library for Brighter Future project, which allows students free access to books through classroom libraries.
How Better Life Vietnam can help
During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, educators must continue to contend with potential setbacks to their role in reducing inequality by providing education to students typically deprived of technological access. One way that Better Life Vietnam is already addressing this gap is through its scholarship program, which includes packages ranging from 30 to 80 dollars per month to cover school tuition and fees.
Based on the worldwide demand for an upskilled workforce that meets employer needs, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant move to online education in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors reveals an enormous vulnerability globally. Vietnam is certainly no exception. This is an issue that an organization such as Better Life Vietnam, with its focus on reducing inequality and improving access to education for disadvantaged youths, finds itself well-positioned to address.
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