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New UNESCO Report: How to Deploy EduTech in Post-COVID‐19 Schools

By Wayan Vota on December 16, 2020

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The COVID-19 digital response has shown the huge potential of educational technologies to support better and more extensive education and learning. However, it has also served as a stark reminder that all technologies can be used to create both positive and negative impacts, and that one of the main effects of COVID-19 has been to increase educational inequities and marginalization.

EduTech Marginalization

Marginalisation is the process through which people are excluded from access to resources and opportunities. One of the most profound and important ways through which this is maintained is through differential access to and participation in education systems. There are seven groups of people who are particularly susceptible to processes of marginalisation:

  • Out-of-school youth,
  • Learners with disabilities,
  • Girls and women,
  • Refugees and displaced persons,
  • Learners in isolated areas,
  • Ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples,
  • Learners in informal or irregular employment.

It is essential for government leaders to deliver effective learning for the most marginalised through the use of digital technologies. Creating a digitally-informed resilient education system requires a whole government approach that involves many ministries other than just the Education Ministry.

Edutech must also begin with a profound commitment to the inclusion of the poorest and most-marginalised; digital technologies must be used in ways that serve their needs and interests, and not just those of the rich and privileged.

New UNESCO ICT4Edu Report

In the new report Education for the most marginalised post‐COVID‐19, UNESCO gives guidance for governments on the use of digital technologies in education. They find that governments need to focus on five inter-related areas through which their strategies and implementation processes should be delivered.

1. A whole society approach: delivering equity in education

Ensuring that education systems are equitable implies that resources are allocated disproportionately to those who have most need of them. Put simply, it usually costs more to educate the poorest and most marginalised, and additional resources therefore often need to be allocated to such delivery.

Crafting a whole society approach to making such education happen is not only a means of sharing resources more efficiently, but it also enhances a stronger sense of community and greater realisation of the need for continuous learning throughout the life-cycle. As a starting point, to deliver equity in the use of digital technologies in education means beginning where it is most difficult.

2. Enabling access: building resilient infrastructures for education

Funding national infrastructure initiatives including school connectivity and power supply should never be a cost placed purely on Ministries of Education that are already overstretched not least in paying teachers’ salaries. Rather, they must be a shared responsibility across government through the holistic approach advocated above.

Nevertheless, it is impossible for learners to benefit fully from many of the latest digital technologies unless connectivity and electricity are available. Moreover, much can also be done by appropriate use of old technologies (such as radio and TV) in new ways, and it is therefore essential for governments to consider what technologies they should best use to ensure that everyone can have access to basic learning opportunities.

For those for whom digital technologies are not feasible, governments need to continue to make available alternative (often paper-based) educational resources and content. These recommendations should be read alongside those pertaining to financing below.

3. Being context specific: technologies and content

There is no one size fits all, universal digital solution, that will deliver appropriate global education for everyone. Governments must understand that context matters, and should resist initiatives by companies intent on offering a single ‘best’ solution. Instead, they should draw on the many good examples carefully to craft the most appropriate uses of relevant digital technologies for their own social, cultural, political and economic context.

4. Ensuring appropriate pedagogies: teaching and learning

One of the overwhelming outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the realisation that teachers really do matter. This has presented a good opportunity for education systems to be recrafted so that they place excellence in teaching at their heart.

To achieve this, the highest priority must be placed on relevant in-service and pre-service teacher training that focuses on enabling teachers and learning facilitators of all kinds to use digital technologies to enhance their own learning and thereby improve the quality of their teaching so that all of their pupils and students have better learning outcomes.

5. Making wise use of technology: security, privacy and data

COVID-19 has illustrated very clearly how increased levels of digital connectivity and use during the pandemic have translated into increases in harms. It has also highlighted difficult issues surrounding privacy and the use, or abuse, of personal data.

Governments must therefore ensure that the potential harms of using digital technologies in education and learning are mitigated, so that their benefits can be safely and fully achieved, especially by the most vulnerable.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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