A research team from Open University Malaysia (OUM) won a UNESCO grant last February to prepare a report on technology and education in Malaysia. The team was awarded RM40,000 in funding to conduct a case study for the 2023 Global Education Monitoring (GEM): Southeast Asia Regional Report.
The team comprises OUM President/Vice-Chancellor Professor Dr Ahmad Izanee Awang, General Manager (Learning Experience & Technology) Professor Dr Santhi Raghavan and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Technology and Applied Sciences Associate Professor Dr Nantha Kumar Subramaniam.
The GEM Report is an editorially independent, evidence-based annual report hosted and published by UNESCO. Focusing on monitoring education in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, it commissioned case studies for 11 countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.
Each country’s case study is expected to provide a comprehensive analysis of education challenges to which technology can potentially contribute and essential conditions that need to be met for the potential to be realised.
Said Prof Izanee, “Even in disciplines in which research is inexpensive, capturing a grant is increasingly being espoused as an index to judge academics and universities for ranking purposes. Academics all know that we must publish or perish for scholarly survival.
“This project will enable us to understand how technology is applied in higher education institutions and schools by exploring access to equity and inclusion issues in the Malaysian education sector. It will also provide a more comprehensive and evidence-based report on the digital skills of learners and teachers.”
Prof Santhi added, “We are honoured to have won such a generous and prestigious funding from UNESCO. We shall be working in two different fields (technology and education) in a large-scale empirical, scientific and psychologically-oriented research, employing both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.”
Meanwhile, said Dr Nantha, who will lead the project, “We are reaching out to stakeholders at the federal and local levels through broad-based consultations and questionnaires to collect and strengthen information on the target groups. These insights will help us to understand and appraise the current status on the application of technology for teaching and learning and recommend ways for improvements”.
About 3 months after this achievement, OUM hosted a 2-day meeting for OU5, a network of five open universities in ASEAN countries that collaborate on institutional development and ASEAN studies research.
The five universities are OUM, Universitas Terbuka (UT) from Indonesia, the University of Philippines Open University (UPOU), Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (STOU) from Thailand, and Hanoi Open University (HOU) from Vietnam.
The participants discussed current and upcoming research initiatives at the meeting organised by OUM’s Centre for Research and Innovation (CRI) in Kuala Lumpur from 10 to 11 May.
According to Prof Izanee, OU5 enables the universities to promote each other’s strengths and face challenges together towards providing inclusive digital education. UPOU Chancellor Professor Melinda Bandalaria added that OU5 provides a platform to harness the research capabilities of university staff.
Participants from the 5 open universities chose the following research areas for the coming year:
- UT: Inclusive Education – Providing Quality Education for All
- UPOU: Artificial Intelligence in Digital Education
- HOU: Promoting Sustainable Industrialisation in the ASEAN region
- OUM: Counselling Services at Open Universities to Promote Good Mental Health in the ASEAN Region
- STOU: Preserving ASEAN Culture in the Digital Age
The next OU5 meeting will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the later part of this year.
In June, three OUM academics went to Indonesia to attend meetings organised under BUKA, a research project funded under the European Erasmus+ programme.
The project involves support for capacity building and sharing of resources from European countries to Asian countries in the field of open and distance learning (ODL).
Tampere University of Applied Sciences and Dublin City University from Ireland represented the European side, while the Asian partners are OUM and Wawasan Open University from Malaysia, Universitas Terbuka and Universitas Negeri Padang from Indonesia, and University of the Philippines Open University and Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology from the Philippines. CRI Director Associate Professor Dr Thirumeni Subramaniam, Faculty of Education Dean Dr Aliza Ali, and Senior Lecturer Dr Md Rosli Ismail took part in the meetings on advancing equity and access to higher education through ODL, visiting both Universitas Negeri Padang and Universitas Terbuka Indonesia together with all the other participants.