Working Group on Technology, Broadband and Education
How can the Broadband Commission help address the bottlenecks in achieving education for all?
The Broadband Commission’s 2013 Working Group on Education was established to promote Education for All (EFA). Co-Chaired by Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and Mr. John Galvin, Vice President of Government and Education at the Intel Corporation, the Working Group provided strategic recommendations for using technology to improve education and increase equity and underscored the importance of information communication technologies (ICTs) in this process.
Setting the Stage
Key 21st Century Skills
As labor functions become increasingly automated, societies have been transitioning to knowledge society and economies, which call for new skills to be addressed by educational systems. These skills include:
Ways of Thinking: creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning
Ways of Working: communication and collaboration
Tools for Working: ICT and information literacy
Skills for Living in the World: citizenship, life and career skills, and personal and social responsibility.
Gaps in Access to ICTs
As referenced in the Working Group’s 2013 Report, 93% of 15-year-olds in member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), had access to a computer and the Internet at school in 2009, with a ratio of eight students per computer.
In developing countries, on the other hand, access to ICT facilities has been a major challenge. For example, a study in Kenya, published in 2010, stated that only 3% of schools had Internet access, while in most African countries, there are on average 150 schoolchildren per computer.
How ICTs Can Help
ICTs can increase the efficiency and efficacy of teaching and learning, while increasing equality in educational opportunity.
Supporting Teachers: ICTs enable teachers to streamline their work and prepare for class. In addition, innovative teaching materials and methods can be more easily discovered, as well as customized for individual students, including those with special educational needs. Finally, ICTs can facilitate communication among teachers, students, parents and administrators.
Supporting Students: As yet, little direct evidence is available about the impact of ICTs on improving learning outcomes. This might be because the ratio of students to computers at schools remains high. However, the falling cost of equipment and the advent of new devices specifically targeted at children, as well as innovative approaches such as using several mice for accessing a single computer, are all contributing to a more student- centred approach to ICTs in education.
Mobile Learning: It is the potential of mobile devices that is most likely to boost the use of ICTs in education. Already, countries are considering providing children with tablet computers in place of textbooks. The Republic of Korea, Thailand and Turkey, for example, have all announced large-scale programmes towards this goal. As well as being easy to update, digital textbooks can help students learn independently according to their own abilities and interests. And today, many learners are likely to have access to ICT at home, at school – in fact, everywhere they go. Mobile learning, therefore, is now integral to education.
The Way Forward
Conclusions and Recommendations
To effectively use ICT to benefit educational methods and systems, the Working Group’s Report, Technology, Broadband and Education: Advancing the Education For All Agenda, more efforts will have to be made by all stakeholders – including international organizations, governments, education authorities, IT providers, telecommunication operators, civil society and the private sector.
Recommendations from the Report
The final two sections of the report examine strategies that countries (particularly developing ones) should embrace in order to reap the full benefits of ICTs in education. To help achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and those of Education for All, the 2013 Report recommends that governments and all stakeholders in education should implement six policies for the future:
1. Increase Access to ICTs and Broadband: Policy-makers should continue efforts to implement cross-sectoral policies that ensure affordable and equitable access to ICTs and broadband connectivity for all citizens, particularly women and girls and marginalized groups.
2. Incorporate ICTs into Job Training and Continuing Education: Given the rapid pace of technological change and such challenges as high youth unemployment, governments should provide financial incentives to support the adoption of ICTs and the provision of broadband in all activities designed to create new jobs and offer lifelong training.
3. Teach ICT Skills and Digital Literacy to All Educators and Learners: Governments should prioritize the redesign of education systems so as to better respond to the digital revolution. Empowering teachers and students to use ICTs effectively is central to improving education and the assessment of learning.
4. Promote Mobile Learning and Open Educational Resources: Policy-makers should introduce incentives for the development of open educational resources (see box). In addition, the use of mobile technology should be encouraged at all levels and in all forms of education, facilitating access to high-quality learning
5. Support the Development of Content Adapted to Local Contexts and Languages: Getting the ICT hardware in place is just one element: investment also needs to be made in creating ecosystems of online educational applications and services with local content and in local languages.
6. Work to Bridge the Digital Divide: Policy-makers should continue efforts to bridge the digital divide between developed and developing countries, by promoting international collaboration and partnerships.
The Working Group Model
Composition and Activities
The Working Group on Education held its inaugural meeting in Paris on 5 June 2011 to define the scope and purpose of its activities, with a second meeting on 24-25 February to present the report “Technology Broadband and Education: Advancing the Education for All Agenda” to the conference of the WSIS+10 review process in Paris. The Report was presented to press representatives at an event at Mobile World Congress on 27 February 2013.