Entitled “Technology in education: A tool on whose terms?” , the 2023 Global Education Monitoring Report is being launched today at an event in Montevideo, Uruguay, hosted by UNESCO, the Ministry of Education and Culture of Uruguay and Ceibal Foundation with 15 ministers of education from around the world. It proposes four questions that policy makers and educational stakeholders should reflect upon as technology is being deployed in education:
- Is it appropriate?
Using technology can improve some types of learning in some contexts. The report cites evidence showing that learning benefits disappear if technology is used in excess or in the absence of a qualified teacher. For example, distributing computers to students does not improve learning if teachers are not involved in the pedagogical experience. Smartphones in schools have also proven to be a distraction to learning, yet fewer than a quarter of countries ban their use in schools.
1. Is it equitable?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid shift to online learning left out at least half a billion students worldwide, mostly affecting the poorest and those in rural areas. The report underlines that the right to education is increasingly synonymous with the right to meaningful connectivity, yet one in four primary schools do not have electricity. It calls for all countries to set benchmarks for connecting schools to the internet between now and 2030 and for the focus to remain on the most marginalized.
2. Is it scalable?
Sound, rigorous and impartial evidence of technology’s added value in learning is needed more than ever, but is lacking. Most evidence comes from the United States, where the What Works Clearinghouse pointed out that less than 2% of education interventions assessed had ‘strong or moderate evidence of effectiveness’. When the evidence only comes from the technology companies themselves, there is a risk it may be biased.
Many countries ignore the long-term costs of technology purchases and the EdTech market is expanding while basic education needs remain unmet. The cost of moving to basic digital learning in low-income countries and connecting all schools to the internet in lower-middle-income countries would add 50% to their current financing gap for achieving national SDG 4 targets. A full digital transformation of education with internet connectivity in schools and homes would cost over a billion per day just to operate.
3.Is it sustainable?
The fast pace of change in technology is putting strain on education systems to adapt. Digital literacy and critical thinking are increasingly important, particularly with the growth of generative AI. Additional data attached to the report show that this adaptation movement has begun: 54% of surveyed countries have defined the skills they want to develop for the future. But only 11 out of 51 governments surveyed have curricula for AI.