Broadband connectivity at the Transforming Education Pre-Summit

Spotlighting the power of digital at the Transforming Education Pre-Summit

The United Nations Secretary-General will convene the upcoming Transforming Education Summit (TES) during the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York City on 19 September 2022. The Summit seeks to mobilize political ambition, action, solutions, and solidarity to transform education: to take stock of efforts to recover pandemic-related learning losses; reimagine education systems for the world of today and tomorrow; and revitalize national and global efforts to achieve SDG-4: Quality Education.

In preparation for the Summit, a Pre-Summit event was held on 28-30 June 2022 to better identify a shared understanding of the key elements of transforming education.

The event took place over three days at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and facilitated multistakeholder discussions centered around five thematic Action Tracks, including:

At the opening of the Pre-Summit, Co Vice-Chair of the Broadband Commission and Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Audrey Azoulay proclaimed, “21st century education must respond to the needs of the 21st century and its challenges.”

As a dynamic multistakeholder organization, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development responds to the pressing needs of the 21st century and its challenges by engaging its members in research and policy development through its Working Groups.  Education has been a continuous focus of these groups since the Commission’s founding in 2010.

The importance of digital skills, learning and transformation was a common theme throughout all five Action Tracks, tying closely with the Broadband Commission Advocacy Target 4, which aims to ensure 60% of youth and adults meet the minimum level of digital skills proficiency by 2025.

Discussions included representatives from the public & private sector, academics, civil society organizations and youth. In a youth intervention on the panel for Learning and Skills for Life, Work and Sustainable Development (Action Track 2), a passionate youth speaker, Ms. Daria Chekalskaia, warned that digital learning cannot operate well in isolation.

“In a hyper-connected world, we are super disconnected,” she said. “The Corona pandemic made it worse. Yes, online education is transforming the world, but teachers and students haven’t seen each other for years or even at all. Online education should be heavily, heavily complimented with interactive tools and hands-on experiences” she suggested.

While the COVID-19 pandemic brought about new challenges that necessitated distance learning, the rapid development of digital educational practices afforded a level of flexibility that has made education more accessible than ever. The Broadband Commission Working Group on Digital Learning 2021 Report “stresses the need for a context-based approach and puts particular emphasis on the multiple enabling strategies required for hybrid learning to be authentically inclusive and equity-minded.” With the policy recommendations of this report in mind, the Broadband Commission continues to develop strategies for inclusive, adaptable and sustainable hybrid learning models through its current Working Group on Data for Learning.

In alignment with the findings of this Working Group, Mr. Chris Humphries, President and Chair of the Board of WorldSkills International, brought up the power of technology for educational equity in the panel portion of the session. “If we are going to make learning genuinely available to all, to reach out to the most distant disadvantaged then our systems need to become far more accessible, adaptive, and personalized by incorporating new digital learning approaches and recognizing that globally there is a universal obligation to make technology more accessible to all nations, all communities, and all individuals.” He then clarified, “It’s not a panacea, but it is an essential, powerful tool in any universal individual-focused lifelong learning system.”

At the discussion on Digital Learning and Transformation (Action Track 4) Broadband Commission Co-Vice-Chair and ITU Secretary-General, Mr. Houlin Zhao contributed to the active discussion, mentioning the Broadband Commission’s work in the effort to transform education,

“Together, I myself and Audrey, DG of UNESCO, are Vice-Chairs of the United Nations Broadband Commission where we very much focus on education as well, of course, as internet connectivity.” He pointed out the universal icon for Wi-Fi is in the center of the TES logo, emphasizing that “Without connectivity this transforming of education will not be successful.”

To close the Pre-Summit, representatives of several national ministries of education shared their respective educational initiatives which include increased investment in ICT equipment, digital skills development, and digital capacity expansion. “We consider digital transformation a critical strategy for contributing to educational innovation, quality improvement, and flexibility and integration,” said Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Education, Nguyễn Văn Phúc in the Ministry Roundtable.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Ms. Amina J. Mohammed formally closed the event by sharing the five critical areas and actions needed for sustainable and inclusive progress:

More details on the Transforming Education Summit can be found online

Stay tuned for more information on how the Broadband Commission and its members will engage in this event.

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