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Implications of the ICT revolution for Technical and Vocational Education and Training -UNESCO-UNEVOC virtual conference on ICT and TVET

19.07.2013

"What are the implications of the ICT revolution for Technical and Vocational Education and Training?” This question attracted 247 participants from 74 countries to come together online for two weeks on the UNEVOC e-Forum, and some of them also joined a one-hour live conference and thought of ways to share promising practices to improve access to vocational education as well as quality.

The virtual conference, organized by the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for TVET (Bonn, Germany) from 14 to 28 May 2013 was moderated by Nik Kafka, CEO and founder of Teach A Man to Fish, an international non-governmental organization supporting schools across the developing world, and aimed at opening up dialogue and facilitate the sharing of promising practices on integrating ICTs into TVET. The conversations focused on identifying what ICTs can do to enhance the reach and impact of TVET; which tools are available and how they improve learning outcomes; what ICT skills young people should have in order to enhance their employability; and which are the common challenges faced by TVET providers, teachers and policy makers in widening access to ICT in all regions of the world. 

Participants agreed that new technologies allow for better and easier access to education, nationally and across borders. The availability of broadband internet is increasing in all parts of the world. While access to learning resources used to be very restricted, more and more high-quality resources become available for free, anytime, almost anywhere. At the learner’s end mobile digital devices become cheaper and more easily available and are being introduced increasingly in educational contexts. Around the world, ICT enables the implementation of education and training, the provision of learning content, and communication between teachers and learners. For that purpose, ICT should be harnessed with the purpose of providing more widespread access to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

The virtual conference highlighted that ICTs can greatly contribute to improving the quality of education if used appropriately and has the potential to not only enhance people’s technical skills, but also helps to develop ‘transferrable’ or soft skills supporting lifelong learning. Participants expressed how ICTs in TVET can also enhance the perception of TVET, a form of education that is often regarded as second-class. The discussion further highlighted the need for a flexible and blended approach in incorporating ICTs into TVET, recognizing the crucial role of the teachers in its delivery. Concerns were raised that teachers may not always be prepared to use ICTs in their teaching. Participants recommended investing in on-going training and support for teachers and instructors to ensure the optimal use of ICT tools. Similarly, it was raised that teachers and students should be encouraged to share knowledge and resources online to boost the quality and availability of open educational resources (OER).

Concerns were raised that if not addressed appropriately, the ‘digital divide’ is likely to widen, thus deepening existing inequalities. Participants from different parts of the world advocated for reducing the digital divide by providing basic literacy training and involving local communities in utilising ICT in education. The challenge is to make sure the tools are inclusive and adapted to the local context, recognizing limitations in terms of access and quality.

Emphasis was placed on sharing promising examples, practical evidence and resources which promote innovative, user friendly and inclusive ICT tools. They should provide valuable suggestions and input for teachers, practitioners and policy-makers who are looking to incorporate such tools in their programmes. The 2-week dialogue demonstrated the value of having a platform for exchange. It provided people the opportunity to gain inspiration from others, think positively and become action oriented. Building on the wealth of resources shared in the discussion and available on platforms such as YouTube, participants came together and have initiated the development of a multilingual database of educational video resources, which could become the nucleus of a “Khan Academy for TVET”.

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In the past ten years, UNESCO-UNEVOC has introduced several online services to convey its key messages, achieve its objectives and facilitate global knowledge exchange. Throughout the years, UNESCO-UNEVOC has continuously worked towards improving its online communication tools to enable TVET policy makers, researchers and practitioners from around the globe to access valuable information and communicate with each other. To facilitate knowledge exchange, UNESCO-UNEVOC established the e-Forum, an online discussion board that, since its inception in 2003, has become a global online community of 3000 TVET experts taking part in crucial discussions on TVET-related issues. To further promote focused debates on crucial themes in TVET, UNESCO-UNEVOC introduced the first moderator-driven e-Forum discussion in 2011. Through these discussions, UNESCO-UNEVOC aims to enhance awareness and encourage wider debate and understanding, including the sharing of ongoing practices and the formulation of new ideas in the field of strategy and policy development. The discussions, guided by an expert in the field, seek experiences, expertise and feedback and wishes to inspire people to take further action.

For a full overview of contributions made in the discussion and a list of useful resources on ICTs and TVET, visit www.unevoc.unesco.org/go.php

A synthesis report, providing directions for future research and programme work in this field will be made available online soon. 

For more information, please contact Lisa Freiburg at l.freiburg@unesco.org