South Asia Regional Symposium on ICT for Education 2018
When: 27-28 February 2018
Where: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Who: Government officials, private sector, researchers, development partners and civil society from across South Asia.
Why: Since 2000, South Asia has made significant progress in improving access to basic education in spite of the many challenges posed by the region’s diverse and large population. In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were adopted to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. SDG 4 on Quality Education, together with the Education 2030 Agenda, aims to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning”. Given this new education agenda, South Asia faces the challenges of improving the quality of education in parallel with the continuing need to increase access. Only 64% of children who enter primary school, manage to reach the last grade in the region, compared to the global average of 75%. The lack of competent trained teachers is a key factor that affects the quality of education in South Asia as seen by the percentage of trained primary school teachers ranges from 44% to 100% with a median of 82%. Other commonly cited challenges include high teacher absenteeism and low teacher competency.
Given these challenges, the Education 2030 Agenda highlights the potential of information communication and technology (ICT) for education to facilitate progress towards SDG 4. For example, the percentage of individuals using the Internet in South Asia has grown from 11.9% in 2010 to 33.4% in 2016. At the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Forum on ICT in Education (AMFIE) 2017 in May, the South Asian representatives recognized the above challenges and agreed that the two immediate actions to improve quality of education were (1) improving teacher capacity and training and (2) developing quality standardized digital content for sharing between national repositories.
ICT can improve equity and inclusion by enabling access to high quality instruction and learning materials through, for example, massive open online courses (MOOC), open educational resources (OER) and personalized learning software. ICT can also improve effectiveness and efficiency of education systems through robust Education Management Information Systems that provide quality and timely data for evidence-based policies. While the region furthers efforts to offer stable internet connections to all, South Asian countries continue to demonstrate leadership in the innovative use of ICT such as mobile phone, DVD and other offline portable computer devices to improve education quality. The use of ICT in education can strengthen self-learning, and there is no doubt that ICT is one of the key instruments to strengthen 21st century knowledge and skills.
The success of ICT in education hinges on sound policy planning and implementation on the ground that are closely aligned with the national education goals and complement the national education sector plan. South Asian countries continue to ramp up their policy efforts. For instance, the government of Nepal developed an ICT in Education Master Plan in 2013, and the government of Sri Lanka is now finalizing their own ICT in education master plan in close collaboration with UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education (UNESCO Bangkok) and ADB.
In view of supporting South Asian countries in their efforts to achieve SDG 4, UNESCO Bangkok and ADB are organizing the South Asia Regional Symposium on ICT for Education for the following purposes:
- Share regional good practices and challenges on ICT in education;
- Discuss ways to fully utilize existing central and school-level ICT infrastructure in their own country context; and
- Discuss ways to prepare future-ready post-secondary students.