Assessing information literacy competency of Arts faculty students at the University of Dhaka.

Author:Islam, Maidul


Digitized information, networked world and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have become necessities in order to stay abreast in the current globalized knowledge based society. Present society has been transformed by the rapid development and diffusion of information and ICT in to fields such as education, business health, agriculture and so on. That is why today's society is increasingly being called an 'information society' and we are witnessing an unprecedented increasing on the production of information all over the world. This enormous growth of information is also posing numerous challenges in our personal and professional life, because over abundance of information may lead to confusion in the information-seeker's mind while deciding which information is going to be useful or not (Bruce, 2004). The process of identifying and selecting information has become complex. It becomes more difficult for information seekers to carry out a successful quest for his desired information. It is thus important to explore various information policies and standard concerning information access and use. This realization has leaded to appear the term 'Information Literacy (IL)' which has very significant implication for today's knowledge based society. IL is also important in higher education as universities prepare people for professional carries and help to enter and adopt of all branches of knowledge. IL enables individuals to participate with greater understanding in community affairs (ANZIL, 2004). The 21st century has brought enormous in higher education throughout the world as a result of new information and technological developments. For students, IL competencies would facilitate independent and authentic learning rather than independence on the teacher to provide answers to questions or problems that they are faced with. But as a developing country in Bangladesh there is a little awareness about the concept of IL and its impact (Salam and Islam, 2009). This study tries to assess the perception of IL among the Arts faculty students at the University of Dhaka.

Background of the study

University of Dhaka was established in 1921 under the Dacca University Act 1920 of the Indian Legislative Council, it is modeled after British universities. Academic activities started on July 1, 1921 with 3 faculties, 12 teaching departments, 60 teachers, 847 students and 3 residential halls (Dhaka University Academic Calendar, 2012). Now the number of students and teachers has risen to about 35,589 and 1,830 respectively (Dhaka University Convocation Prospectus, 2014). There are thirteen faculties and Arts faculty which was established in 1921, one of the largest faculties of the university, consists of sixteen Departments. Four research journals, two in Bengali and two in English are published every year from the Faculty (Dhaka University Prospectus, 2012). The academic activities of these departments are conducted by the Faculty of Arts.

Objectives of the study

The exercise of information for research is a significant basis for academic progress. The prime aim of this study is to assess Information Literacy Competency (ILC) of the Arts faculty students at the University of Dhaka and to determine their strengths and weaknesses. The objectives are to:

* measure the IL competencies and examine the views of Arts faculty students at the University of Dhaka;

* determine the ICT based IL and explore the perceptions on IL of the Arts faculty students;

* find out the information seeking strategy and explore the readiness of the faculty to taken on an enhanced role in awareness of IL education of the students of Arts faculty; and

* identify the problems and developed a series of recommendations to enhance IL activities of the students of Arts faculty.

Review of relevant research

The independence of Bangladesh was declared on 26 March 1971 following the crackdown by the army on the night of 25 March 1971. Bangladesh emerged as an independent and sovereign country on 16 December 1971 following a 9-month War of Liberation. After the emergence of Bangladesh, Dhaka (previously spelt Dacca) is its capital. Literacy situation in Bangladesh period were held three censuses in 1974, 1981 and 1991. The 1974 census defined literacy as the ability to read and write in any language. This definition was in conformity with the UNESCO one accepted throughout the world. The definition of literacy used in the 1981 census covered only persons of age 5 years and above and included those who could write a letter in any language. The 1991 census also defined literacy as the ability to write a letter in any language but covered persons of age 7 years and above. The effect of change in definition of literate has been reflected in the literacy rates of different census years. Literacy rate among people of all ages rose from 17% in 1961 to 24.9% in census year 1991. For the 7 years and above age group, the literacy rate increased from 26.8% in 1974 to 32.4% in 1991. In all census periods, the literacy rates were higher among the males than among the females. The female literacy rate, however, rose significantly in the 1991 census. It was 16.4% in 1974 and 25.5% in 1991. Urban rural variation in literacy rate is also quite evident in all census periods. Literacy rates in urban areas are higher than in rural areas in all census periods (Shuva, 2004).

The independence of Bangladesh generated a new enthusiasm in both government and private level in efforts to expand literacy and remove illiteracy. The Bangladesh Constitution of 1972 provides the basis for a policy on universal primary education. The policy has three components establishing a uniform mass oriented and universal system of education extending free and compulsory education to all children and relating education to the needs of society and removing illiteracy. Keeping in view the constitutional directives, Bangladesh committed itself to implement the recommendations of the World Conference on Education for All (1990), The World Summit on Children (1990) and the Summit Declaration on Education for All (1993). Primary education was recognized as the foundation of preparing literate citizens of the country in all national documents, reports of the commissions and committees on education. But this stage of education got a momentum only after the enactment of the Compulsory Primary Education Law of 1990. Compulsory primary education under this Act was introduced in 1992 in 68 thanas, and all over the country in 1993. Measures such as satellite schools, community schools and Food for Education Program were taken up to increase enrolment and decrease dropout. The new primary curriculum based on terminal competencies was implemented in 1992. These steps resulted in some improvements in various efficiency indicators of primary education such as in gross enrolment ratio and the completion rate and raised the participation of girls in primary education. In addition to state intervention, from the second half of 1980's, the government allowed NGOs to experiment with a variety of delivery mechanisms to cater to the basic educational needs of the disadvantaged population.

Bangladesh Education Commission Report (1974) shows the number of adult men and women an illiterate in the country at the time of independence was 35 million. The Report recommended adoption of non-formal and mass education programs for them. Accordingly, the First Five-Year Plan (1973-78) launched a massive functional literacy program through non-formal education and allocated Tk. 400 million for this subsector. The Second Five-Year Plan (1980-85) attached high priority to eradication of mass illiteracy. Side by side the Universal Primary Education Project, a Mass Education Program (MEP) was implemented in 1980 for people of the 11- 45 years age group. But the program was abandoned in 1982, when its achievement in terms of the number of people made literate was an estimated 700,000 against a target of 10 million. In the Third Five-Year Plan (1985-90) the program was revived with an allocation of Tk. 250 million and a modest target of making 2.4 million adults literate by June 1990. Information from the office of the Integrated Non-Formal Education (INFE) project (former MEP Office) show that only 27 upazilas were covered in this project out of a target of 71 upazilas. A total of 291,600 adults were made literate in five years. In the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1990-95) Tk. 235.70 million was allocated. During the Plan period MEP was continued as a spillover under the project and total of 367,660 adult illiterates of 11-45 years ago were made literate. In addition, another new project, Expansion of INFE Program, was initiated to institutionalize a comprehensive non-formal education system in the country. The program was implemented in 68 thanas of the country. Moreover, under the aegis of the district administration a program named Total Literacy Movement (TLM) was started in 1995 in Lalmonirhat and Bhola districts. It was later extended to 15 other districts. Preparatory work is now under way to extend TLM to 22 more districts. The fifth five-year plan (1997-2002) adopted an ambitious objective to achieve the goal of education for all (EFA) by the end of plan period 2002. The major objectives are to increase gross enrolment in primary schools to 110 percent (net 95%) with particular emphasis on enrolment of girls and on increasing completion rate of primary education to at least 75 percent by the year 2002. The fifth plan also set up some important objectives of mass education consistent with the overall objectives of achieving the goal of EFA and fulfilling the educational needs of 30 million adult illiterates. These objectives are to increase literacy rate of adults (15 years and above) to 80% by the year 2002, to empower learners with technical skills, entrepreneurial traits and leadership skills, to empower...

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