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Season’s Greetings!

With this special newsletter edition, we want to look back on another busy and successful year of integrating ICT in Education. This retrospective is dedicated to each of you who provided us their invaluable input and commitment during our work, be it at policy-level fora, training workshops, research projects, field trips or other ICT-related activities.

We especially want to express our gratitude to our main donors and partners, Korean Funds-in-Trust, Japanese Funds-in-Trust, Intel and Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), whose generous support and cooperation was instrumental in meeting our objectives.

Last but not least, thanks to you, our regular readers of our ICT in Education newsletter, who often sent us encouraging feedback and/or contributed insightful articles.

Thank you all.

A keyword: Healthy Balance

One of the most discussed issues in UNESCO Bangkok ICT in Education was “a healthy balance between policy-level interventions and grass-root implementations” to mainstream ICT in Education initiatives and projects, which otherwise usually come and go in a piecemeal way without even knowing if they contributed to desirable outcomes. Having this in mind, UNESCO Bangkok ICT in Education has been trying throughout the year to facilitate active exchange and dialogues among different levels of key stakeholders, including policy makers, local authorities, teacher educators, teachers, industries, NGOs, ICOs, to name a few.

The 4th Asia Pacific Ministerial Forum on ICT in Education was held to promote such dialogues amongst the concerned key stakeholders.  It was organized from 26-28 November in Shenzhen (PR China), with participation from 20 countries across the Asia-Pacific region. Among those are 14 ministerial level officials from eight countries. Altogether more than 180 participants attended. The forum centred on discussing “Fostering Favourable Policy Environments for Mainstreaming Sustainable Innovations”. First-hand experiences and lessons learnt from various initiatives in ICT in education were shared by policy makers, researchers, and practitioners. The Forum report will be made available in January 2014.

Early this year, the Central Asia Symposium on ICT in Education, held in Almaty, the Republic of Kazakhstan, provided a subregional platform to discuss policy, practices and challenges in planning and implementing an ICT-supported lifelong learning environment. The Symposium was successful in providing a regional venue for policy makers, practitioners and development partners to share issues and challenges that Central Asian countries have been facing in integrating ICT into the education and training systems.

As an effort to promote “the healthy balance” ourselves, UNESCO Bangkok ICT in Education continued to support key implementers such as teacher educators and teacher education institutions. This year’s ground-level support focused on creating an enabling educational environment to foster next generations to effectively function in the digital era.

The “Facilitating Effective ICT-Pedagogy Integration Project” was one of such initiatives, which aimed to create an enabling environment for facilitating students’ direct and effective use of ICT. The project looked into an institutional strategy for facilitating students’ use of ICTs by designing and facilitating student-centred ICT-supported activities, building capacity of teachers on ICT-pedagogy integration, and advocating the development of a whole-school support strategy on integrating ICT in Education. Prior to the official closing of the project in mid 2013, a Project Evaluation Meeting was convened from 18-19 March 2013 in Bangkok to examine the impact of the activities, reflect lessons learnt, and synthesize the project’s overall contribution to ICT-supported student-centred learning in the region.

A milestone for our work with teachers and teacher trainers was the launch of the network of teacher education institutions during a Regional Seminar, held in Penang (Malaysia) in October. This network, called UNESCO Resource Distribution and Training Centres (RDTC), consists of teacher education institutions from the Asia-Pacific region. The network is expected to serve as national or regional focal points for distributing ICT in Education resources, training teachers and teacher educators and advocating the effective integration of ICT in Education.

Further workshops on Telecollaboration and Project-based Learning to Reorient Teacher Education towards EFA and ESD (October, Bangkok) and during the Philippine Next Generation of Teachers Conference (October, Bacolod City) concluded our activities on capacity building for teacher education institutions.

As you can imagine, the abovementioned activities has kept us all busy this year. At the same time, it was also one of the most productive years and we proudly presented our publications of three main outputs from the activities.

At the policy level, we have published a study report, “ICT in Education Policy, Infrastructure, and Official Development Assistance Status (ODA)”. The study, completed in June 2013, examines the status of ICT in Education in eight Southeast Asian countries, with special attention to countries’ ICT in Education policies and programmes, infrastructure, official development assistance (ODA) status, and readiness for new and advanced learning technologies (such as learning with robots). To finalize the study, a Regional Consultation Workshop was convened in March 2013, to review and validate the findings with help of representatives from each of the target countries.

At the institutional level, “Case Studies on Integrating ICT into Teacher Education Curriculum in Asia” came to live in October 2013. Teacher Education Institutions themselves have often made great efforts to develop a new ICT curriculum (or course) or incorporate ICT components into their existing curriculum. This publication is a collection of such efforts that illustrates step-by-step processes of how a TEI developed and implemented its ICT-related curriculum. Each case study introduces diverse approaches to developing a new ICT curriculum or revising existing ones and addresses challenges and lessons learned from their first-hand experiences.

At the individual level, we also have developed a training guide for teacher educators who wish to use UNESCO multimedia resources. The UNESCO Training Guide on ICT Multimedia Integration for Teaching and Learning aims to help educators and trainers in conducting a teacher training workshop on the application of multimedia resources.

Thinking ahead  

The Asia-Pacific region is one of the most diverse and dynamic regions in many aspects. When it comes to the use of ICT, the gaps are even bigger. According to a recent report by ITU (2013), only 32% of population in the Asia-Pacific has access to the internet ranked as the second lowest after Africa; on the contrary, six out of 25 top performers on ICT Development Index (IDI) 2012 are from the Asia-Pacific. What would this stark contrast in the ICT provision between the developed and developing countries imply to education?

Concerns on this disjoint  are growing for it may cause the second wave of digital divides (van Dijk, 2012). For instance, students who are exposed to and immersed with different ICT devices are more likely to better prepare for the opportunities in the 21st century, where being able to critically evaluate information from the web, create a knowledge community with people around the world, and most importantly, being able to learn how to learn are crucial competencies. According to findings from PISA 2009 in digital reading[1], students from Korea, New Zealand and Austria who are familiar with and competent in navigating the information in the web performed as high as three levels of reading proficiency than those from some of the less developed countries. The report concluded that “these students [from countries with rare opportunities with ICT] are performing at levels below those that allow them full access to educational, employment and social opportunities in the 21st century”.

With this in mind, UNESCO Bangkok ICT in Education Programme will continue its efforts to reassure evenly shared benefits of ICT for educational outcomes between the prosperous and the poor, men and women, and old and young. Next year’s ICT in Education Programme will start from our ongoing activities on promoting teachers’ pedagogical use of ICT to promote 21st century skills and move onto supporting governments to reform their teacher training into a systematic competency-based programme and raise policy awareness on the safe and responsible use of ICT. Please stay tuned for our exciting activities in 2014.

Once again, UNESCO Bangkok would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support, participation and inspiration. We wish you a happy and healthy New Year.

[1] Although the most recent results of PISA 2012 just came out, the digital reading skills were only measured in PISA 2009 assessment.