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Perspectives from a Participant: AMFIE 2012

30.10.2012

By Raju Varanasi, Director, New South Wales Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre, Australia

I had the pleasure of being an invited panellist and a participant at the 2012 Ministerial Forum on ICT in Education in the Asia Pacific region held in Bangkok. It’s a great credit for UNESCO and Intel – the leading agencies behind the event – that as many as 20 nations attended and shared their insights in their respective journeys in educational development with a particular focus on ICT policies and their consequent impacts on social and economic development. 

The most striking learning point for me was that all participating countries displayed a common baseline of approaches even amidst a great diversity of challenges in their local contexts. It’s the commonality that brings us together to share our perspectives and the diversity urges us to find more individualised solutions for each nation – for there is no single formula for attaining educational excellence or economic development. 

Population size, geography, demography and the vast array of socio economic issues across the Asia-Pacific nations make a heady mix which is at once exciting and daunting. It was very impressive, and quite reassuring, to note that the Ministries of Education and their policy makers demonstrated not only a strong knowledge of their individual contexts but also showed deep understanding of the broader challenges facing all nations irrespective of their current achievements. The commitment and determination demonstrated by the delegates augurs well for the respective nations and for the entire region.

The highlights for me were the criticality of high level planning, focussed deployment and structured execution of policies and processes across school systems as evidenced from successes in Singapore, Portugal, Argentina and Turkey; the importance of using frameworks (there are many which are widely accepted) for implementation and knowing clearly where a nation is on its planned roadmap; the crucial link between ICT policies and overall economic development agenda; the necessity to invest in ICT infrastructure using policy levers such as universal service funds; the power of partnerships with NGOs, industry and international agencies; and most importantly the vision and leadership from the national and provincial governments.

The role of ICTs in Education inevitably led to discussion on teacher preparation and professional development, teacher performance standards, teacher supply and demand, digital content and resources for system wide use, international performance benchmarking, integration of ICTs in pedagogy, 21st century learning, and school reforms.

My main takeaways from the forum are the knowledge ladder from Prof. Kozma; the 5E model of ICT usage from Crescent school, Singapore; the SABER-ICT initiative for policy makers from World Bank, and the large scale school ICT reform projects FATIH and Conectar Igualdad from Turkey and Argentina respectively. The final session on Ministerial dialogue – thanks to masterful facilitation - by Dr Gwang Jo-Kim of UNESCO and John Davies of Intel – synthesised the challenges and issues for all participants. 

It was a great networking experience for me. I made contacts with a wide range of stakeholders in Education who I never met despite my 21 years in educational management. These include Ministers, departmental secretaries, policy advisors, programme leads, educational managers, technology experts, industry thought leaders, UN, ITU and World Bank representatives. 

The forum aimed to provide a platform for sharing policy, experiences, good practices, and lessons learned from ICT in Education – and it has certainly achieved it – aided by a fine blend of Thai elegance and hospitality.