Computer skills are a necessary complement to conventional education. Students entering university require a general understanding of computer concepts and applications with a basic level of proficiency. This makes them able to cope with the technological demands of the university environment, communicate with peers and instructors, research academic topics, perform mathematical calculations, write assignments, prepare term papers, access course materials, complete administrative functions, achieve the best possible outcomes, and so on.
What if someone does not have the basic skills before entering the university? Syeda Nushrat Jaha Nasuha, a first-year economics student at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), is averse to computer use and still prefers to work with her phone. "I usually did my assignments manually, use my smartphone to make a pdf, and then submit it."
Farhana Ferdous Mimma, now a second-year student at the same department and institution, faces troubles for a lack of computer skills.
"Because of having a desktop at home, I had some experience of typing, drawing on the computer. But it was not enough. For the first time when I was informed of a presentation and its procedures, I was baffled because of having no prior experiences with such things and felt a huge mental strain."
Esrat Jahan Eva, an undergrad student of Economics and office secretary at Shahjalal University Speakers' Club (SUSC), also did not do any practical computer course. Although she read ICT during her college years, it did not help much. "I am learning the basic computer tools like Microsoft Excel, Access, PowerPoint through my ongoing academic courses, although these should have been learnt earlier," she regrets.
"Even though I have some ideas, I remember nothing of what I have learnt in the course. So, if there is any task related to the computer, I get annoyed and scared. Now, I think that if I need it, I will look it up on YouTube or Google," shared Mahima Akter Meem, a first-year student of Economics at SUST. She clearly agonises over her missed opportunities of learning properly to avoid the issues she faces now.
Ibrahim Ahmed, a senior editorial and publication executive at a youth-led economics discussion and analytics platform -- Econ Insider -- did not face any such issues like Meem. He took an elementary computer course properly which made the difference. He explains, "The biggest advantage during my first year at university was having the skills (computer) beforehand and I did not feel any mental pressure in preparing the assignments and presentations."
He recommends every student learn Microsoft tools as early as possible. "I think it is important for a student to master these before going to university. Many organisations teach these skills. In addition, many e-learning platforms offer free basic courses in computer and sometimes free intermediate courses, too," he emphasises.
"One of the most important tools to learn is PowerPoint before entering the university, because good presentation skills will shape both your academic and working career," shared Ahmed Mustafa, a Sociology graduate from Rajshahi University. "It should be the utmost priority for students to operate computer from the secondary years. Even if someone does not enrol in a learning course, one can master the basics by regularly trying him/herself," he elaborates.
Bangladesh still has a poor level of computer literacy; at least the existing data prove that. Data from the Bangladesh ICT Use and Access Survey 2013 show that even in the households that own a computer, only 33 per cent of individuals can use it. Although the data are not up to date, the scenario has not changed much. It implies that educational institutions in the country are not sufficiently equipped with computers and that some pupils may graduate from high school without developing computer literacy.
Computer literacy is a prerequisite for both education and job. Employees who could use computers efficiently earned 17 per cent more than those who couldn't-- revealed the research article 'Returns to Computer Use in Bangladesh: An Econometric Analysis' published on March 08, 2021. In addition, the rates of return on experience and education were estimated to be 2.0 per cent and 3.0 per cent respectively. Computer skills were just as worthwhile as eight years of experience or five years of education, under the condition that the returns on all three were consistent over time. Hence, the message is clear even from the numbers that learning computer skills is essential.
Suraiya Begum Ruhi is currently a second-year student of Economics at SUST. [email protected]