Education at the broadband commission
“New technologies and broadband Internet access offer formidable opportunities for increasing access to education. They make new learning opportunities possible. They add a new dimension to how we deliver literacy programs, train teachers, manage schools and share knowledge.” So affirmed the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova in her introductory remarks to the Education Working Group of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, during its meeting on 6 June at UNESCO Headquarters.
Ms Bokova pointed out that the nine high-population developing countries grouped into UNESCO’s E-9 network were exploring how to harness emerging technologies for basic education and literacy.
During the Education Working Group meeting, representatives of governments, private companies, bilateral and multilateral partners and academia acknowledged the transformative power of technology in teacher training, schools and universities everywhere. They agreed that basic ICT literacy was a core competency in today’s knowledge-based economies. The principal question - “So what does it take for broadband-based education to work?”- yielded the following:
First, basic infrastructure, the condition for connectivity; Second, partnerships - National Broadband Plans offer an opportunity to bring everyone on board: governments, operators, the private sector and civil society; Third, introducing ICT in teacher training and in the classroom which requires a concerted effort from ministries, teacher unions and other actors; Fourth, content development and sharing knowledge which can be achieved through digital libraries and open educational resources.
Proposals for moving forward included launching specific projects in least developed countries (in particular secondary education for marginalized girls and teacher training) to provide a template for scaling up broadband applications for education; establishing a fund for mobile technologies and education using a share of universal service charges and ensuring a mechanism for sharing best practices and sustainable business models. Exciting initiatives were happening in middle-income and least developed countries, and it was important that these be shared more widely.