Harnessing the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Education

Modern societies are increasingly dependent on information and knowledge, with digital information and communication technologies as main drivers. This requires women and men who have Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills to handle information and are reflective, creative and adept at problem-solving in order to generate knowledge. Therefore, one of the basic requirements for education in the 21st century is to prepare learners for participation in a knowledge-based economy.

Since the introduction of ICTs, their integration into education and the associated financial investments have been policy concerns in many countries. Technologies can improve the teaching/learning process by enhancing the quality of learning, transforming conventional delivery systems, sustaining lifelong learning and improving institutional management. The importance of integrating ICTs is also recognized in the Global Development Agenda, more specifically in SDG9 on Innovation as well as SDG4 on Education. Global indicator 4.4.1 under SDG4.4 refers to the proportion of youth and adults with ICT skills, by type of skill.

In the Qingdao Declaration, signed by Ministers of Education at the International Conference on ICT and Post-2015 Education conference in Qingdao, People’s Republic of China (23 to 25 May 2015), it was stated that the full potential of ICT for education must be unleashed for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the vision of Education 2030.

At the regional level, the third strategic objective in the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25) emphasizes the need for “ICT to improve access, quality and management”. The overall strategy aspires to “create a new African citizen who will be an effective change agent for the continent’s sustainable development as envisioned by the 2063 Agenda”; the continent thereby puts forward a strong focus on ICTs.

UNESCO supports the efforts of its Member States to design and implement effective, evidence-based ICT in education policies and master plans. UNESCO works to ensure activities on the ground respond to the unique needs of countries and local communities alike and are guided by collaborative and consensus-driven approaches. Special care is taken to support the most disadvantaged populations and guarantee the equity, quality and relevance of education for all.

Regional interventions

In November 2015 in Gaborone, Botswana and June 2017 in Harare, Zimbabwe, ROSA organized Southern Africa regional meetings on integrating ICTs in teaching and learning.

These regional meetings enabled countries to share experiences and practices regarding the integration of ICTs in their education systems and to strategize towards national and regional action plans. It became evident that countries are gearing substantial efforts towards the integration of ICTs in teaching and learning and are implementing multiple initiatives at country level, with support of a range of partners. Countries prioritize infrastructure provision over the softer side of building/strengthening the needed capacities for ICT integration, which still requires additional investments. Other focus areas include the integration of ICTs in the curriculum, ICTs in teacher training, ODL and ICT in Education policies. Clear roadmaps and plans were considered important for achieving successes in ICT integration at country level. The importance of political will and partnerships was also emphasized.

The features for developing e-content and e-schools were also discussed, as well as teacher ICT competencies. Participants recognized the opportunity to benchmark against UNESCO's ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (ICT-CFT). Some countries have already gone through this exercise. For the regional level, the recommendation was made to include ICT competencies in the Regional Teacher Competence Framework which is currently being developed with support of UNESCO and the SADC secretariat.

To accelerate progress and to respond to some of the challenges that countries are facing in the integration of ICTs in teaching and learning, UNESCO, through the extra budgetary contributions from its member states, has been supporting the implementation of ICT in Education projects in Africa.

The UNESCO-China Funds-in-Trust (CFIT) Project and the UNESCO-Korea Funds-in-Trust (KFIT) Project are extra budgetary funding mechanisms of UNESCO which are being implemented in multiple countries in Africa. These countries have different focus areas (such as Capacity building in ICT Literacy and ICT Integration, E-School models, ICT Centres of Excellence, ICT Policies for Education, ODL, MOOCS, ICT Learning/Sharing Platforms)  and are at different stages of implementation. For Southern Africa, CFIT beneficiary countries are Namibia and Zambia, and KFIT beneficiary countries are Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

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