Few challenges today are as important to our future as learning and education. This is the fuel of economic prosperity, the foundation of our global society, and the source of tomorrow’s leaders.
Can Technology Improve Education?
There may be differences in approaches, but most nations agree on one thing: people across the world deserve the right to education. In fact, providing a free and compulsory primary education to all is one of the basic tenants of the UNDP Millennium Development Goals, signed by 189 nations, to be reached by 2015.
Despite huge advances in technology, many educators have expressed frustration at how these innovations have failed to translate into improvements in critical thinking and deeper learning. Many promises have been made and left unfulfilled, while computers and connected learning systems remain underutilized. In some cases, technology is even seen as a threat to the roles of teachers rather than a supporting tool. In short, there are still mixed views on the potential of the ICT sector to improve learning. At the same time, many experts are in agreement that the next generation of workers and citizens will require social and cognitive skills not currently being taught in the old-style educational models. In other words, there is a great need to rethink conventional education.
While the number of children who do not receive a primary school education has been reduced by nearly one-third over the past decade, students completing a primary education often lack basic skills. In Bangladesh, for example, 88% of all students completing a primary education remained illiterate, according to a BBC study. Attendance levels also remain a challenge – for teachers as well as for students. Consider, for example, that on any given day in India 25% of the teachers do not show up for work.
In the effort to solve these persistent challenges, there is no shortage of ideas and individual initiatives. Isolated examples of ad-hoc projects, e-learning or blended education are encouraging, but they will simply not have truly global impact if they cannot be scaled up quickly for the rest of the planet. It’s about millions of people tapping into a great idea very quickly. So the question arises: What can the ICT sector do to help make this happen? How can we empower entire nations and regions to scale up new educational models and learning tools that are proven to be successful?
These are just some of the issues to be explored at the NEST Forum in Hong Kong.