National EdTech strategies: what, why, and who
The Prioritizing Learning During Covid-19 report, recently launched by the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel, reinforces a well-known but often overlooked refrain about EdTech: it is not a silver bullet. Using evidence from Covid responses, the report advises policymakers responding to learning loss caused by the pandemic to use existing EdTech, and focus on good pedagogy that is supported, rather than replaced by, technology.
Many governments and partners are already thinking along these lines. As the pandemic evolves in 2022, they recognize that EdTech is an important tool in their arsenal, but that it cannot be used alone. Countries increasingly seek to integrate adaptive and equitable uses of EdTech into their broader education plans.
We are using the lens of developing a national EdTech strategy to explore the basics of how countries can bring EdTech and digital learning into their broader thinking about education.
We examine three questions:
- What is a national EdTech strategy, and why might countries create one?
- Who should be involved in developing an EdTech strategy?
- What are some examples of existing EdTech strategies?
What is a national EdTech strategy, and why might countries create one?
When we say ‘national EdTech strategy’, we mean a plan to use EdTech in ways that support overall education system goals, including improving access, equity, and learning outcomes. Different terminology is used to refer to this, such as ‘ICT in Education plan’, ‘Digital learning roadmap’, or even ‘EdTech policy.’
A country might want to create an EdTech strategy for a couple of different purposes:
- Facing forward. How can EdTech be used to help create the envisioned future?
- Capturing what we are doing today. How can we develop a strategy that consolidates everything related to EdTech or digital learning that we are working on?
- Reacting to circumstances. How can we use EdTech to respond to recent events and disruptions to education, such as the Covid-19 pandemic?
Whether they stand apart, or are integrated directly into broader education sector planning processes, it is crucial that EdTech strategies are aligned to, and work in service of, the goals of wider national education sector plans and strategies. This helps mitigate the risk of a tech-first approach and keeps the focus on universal access to education, combatting learning loss, tackling inequalities and addressing the digital divide.
A national EdTech strategy typically includes some or most of the components found in the World Bank SABER-ICT policy framework:
- Vision and planning
- Skills and competencies
- ICT infrastructure
- Learning resources
- EMIS and data
- Equity, inclusion and safety
- Community engagement and partnerships
- Costs and financing
Who should be involved in developing an EdTech strategy?
Ministries of education usually own the education sector planning process, often with the input of local education groups. Those groups may include development agencies, civil society organisations (CSOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), teachers and the private sector.
It is particularly important to engage teachers, as they are at the heart of day-to-day EdTech practice, whether in classrooms or remotely. Incorporating their perspectives and getting teacher buy-in for any strategy is essential for success. It also creates a greater chance that a strategy will directly reflect the professional development support and resources that teachers need to effectively use EdTech.
Beyond these actors, EdTech strategies need input, buy-in and collaboration from technology-specific groups, which are underrepresented in the coalitions that typically take part in education sector planning. They may include ICT ministries, mobile network operators, telecommunications companies, and EdTech innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors. In other words, to be effective, EdTech strategies should be developed cross-sectorally and engage a variety of actors to provide a holistic view for greater impact.
Setting up a task force or steering committee with representation from the groups noted above is a crucial first step in co-creating and fostering shared ownership of a national EdTech strategy, or EdTech priorities integrated into a broader education plan or policy. A task force or steering committee can lead the overall strategy development and take responsibility for the strategy’s quality, coherence, and eventual finalisation and endorsement. Including diverse actors in strategy development can help provide a more complete picture of a country’s EdTech ecosystem and balance perspectives on issues such as data security, sustainability, public-private collaboration, and local capacity.
While there may be higher coordination costs, the right strategy development process with a mix of actors can unlock goodwill and support, and can greatly improve the odds of implementation of an EdTech strategy.
What are some examples of existing EdTech strategies?
The following examples offer a flavour of national EdTech strategies and how they have been developed.
Singapore. Since 1997, Singapore has developed four ICT in Education Masterplans and currently has an Educational Technology (EdTech) Plan in place. The Ministry of Education employs a robust monitoring and evaluation plan to review and iterate upon existing plans. From the first Masterplan (1997 – 2002), to the current plan (2020 – present), areas of focus have evolved from putting in place basic infrastructure and equipping teachers with digital skills, to quality learning, digital citizenship, and supporting a tech-enabled, agile and flexible learning environment.
Bhutan. The Ministry of Education in Bhutan similarly used their first master plan as a jumping off point for the current iSherig-2 Education ICT Master Plan (2019 – 2023). The current plan includes three strategic “thrusts” or overarching initiatives (see figure below):
- iAble: enhancing ICT competencies
- iBuild: enhancing teaching and learning resources that integrate ICT
- iConnect: strengthening ICT infrastructure and connectivity
Ghana. The ICT in Education Policy for Ghana was finalised in 2015. It covers several areas such as education management, capacity building, infrastructure / e-readiness, and monitoring and evaluation. The policy aligns with priorities documented in the Ghana ICT for Accelerated Development Policy (ICT4AD). Ghana is currently in a consultative process of revising its ICT in Education Policy, with a keen focus on building capacity in the uptake of ICT tools and approaches to facilitate effective delivery of equitable and inclusive education in the country.
Over the next few months, EdTech Hub will work with partners to co-author a topic brief on developing a national EdTech strategy. We hope to share more insights from that process on this blog.
Interested in learning more about EdTech strategies? You can check out the following resources:
- Remote Learning Packs (UNICEF and World Bank resources)
- EdTech Vision 2025 (EdTech UK report)
- Reimagining Human Connections (World Bank EdTech strategy)
- Toolkit for Designing a Comprehensive Distance Learning Strategy (USAID toolkit)
- ICT in Education Policy Toolkit (UNESCO toolkit)
Reminder for UNICEF, World Bank, and FCDO staff: Helpdesk support is available on this and other topics. You can submit a request using this link.
The authors would like to thank Mike Trucano, Senior Education & Technology Policy Specialist at the World Bank, for his contributions to this blog post.