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ICT in education – perspectives from Myanmar

Photo credit: Telenor Myanmar

Last month in Myanmar groups of excited public high school students travelled to an ICT training center in Nay Pyi Taw to spend a week of their summer holidays learning about word processing and safe internet behavior. Back in October, another group of public high school students in Myanmar waited nervously for the results of the National ICT Awards competition that they had joined for the very first time. When one of them received a merit award, the joy and pride was palpable.

It’s hard to imagine now, but just five years ago it was both difficult and expensive to buy a SIM card in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Connectivity was rare – if not totally absent – in the country’s public high schools at that time. If a rural government school did have smart phones, tablets or laptops available, in some case it wasn’t possible to charge them properly due to the lack of a stable source of electricity.

Connect to Learn in Myanmar
Fast forward to 2018: there are now 25,000 high school students across Myanmar who have gained access to devices, connectivity and customized educational content through the Connect to Learn initiative, which Ericsson launched in Myanmar in 2016 together with our partners UK-DFID, UNESCO, the Earth Institute, Qualcomm Wireless Reach, Myanmar’s Ministry of Education and MPT. The students have had the chance to enhance their English skills and supplement their academic curriculum with life skills training. Later this month we will add approximately 3,000 incoming Grade 7 students to the program.

Training teachers in ICT
Connect to Learn has also trained nearly 300 teachers in Myanmar to use ICT in their day-to-day classroom teaching. From having little experience in using laptops and browsing the internet for educational materials, the teachers in the 31 schools in the program now put together their own teaching materials from information they’ve found online. The teachers have also created a virtual community on Facebook where they share photos, videos and experiences. Technology makes it possible for them to interact and learn from their colleagues in other regions in ways that they were not able to do before.

New virtual reality based training tool
Later this year Ericsson and Qualcomm Wireless Reach will offer teachers in Myanmar access to a virtual reality based training tool that will enable them to practice integrating ICT into their teaching while outside of the classroom setting. It is the first time that such a tool will be deployed for teachers in a Connect to Learn initiative.

Telenor Myanmar’s Digital Summer School
Ericsson also partnered with Telenor Myanmar in March of this year to set up a digital summer school to provide digital literacy skills training to 25,000 students. The summer school is part of Telenor Myanmar’s social responsibility mission to bridge the gap between rural and urban areas. Telenor Myanmar identified the need for this intervention program last year when they had conversations with parents and teachers in the communities that they serve. They found that parents wanted to give their children the opportunity to learn new skills over the summer, but that not all of them could afford to do so.

It’s interesting to note that both parents and students greatly value ICT skills, to the extent that the current batch of students actively recommend the digital summer school to their peers. They’ve also expressed a wish for the program to continue next summer, and for the training period to be longer.

Shared excitement about ICT
The students in the Myanmar Connect to Learn initiative and those who have participated in Telenor Myanmar’s first digital summer school share an excitement about ICT and a willingness to learn that has sometimes surprised their parents and teachers. We are committed to keeping that spark alive, which is one of the reasons why our longstanding commitment to Connect to Learn will continue, not only in Myanmar but also in the 21 other countries where we have deployments to date.

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To learn more about Ericsson’s sustainability work, check out our Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility Report 2017 at: www.ericsson.com/sustainability-report

Written by Ellen Alarilla

Ellen Alarilla is a Program Manager for Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility for Ericsson's Southeast Asia, Oceania and India market area, which spans all the way from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to Australia and the Pacific Islands. Ellen is keenly interested in how people use technology in their day-to-day lives, and especially in how technology can bring about positive and lasting change. Based in Manila in the Philippines, Ellen has been with Ericsson since 2006.