Report: Edtech policy failing globally, needs ‘critical update’

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A new report published by the Varkey Foundation’s Atlantis Group of 26 former education ministers and heads of government, including former DepEd secretary Br. Armin Luistro, has found that edtech (educational technology) is failing to fulfil its promise in classrooms throughout the world and that policy governing its use needs a critical update.

Edtech has great promise but struggles to deliver, often due to political rather than technological reasons, according to the report which outlined a range of shortcomings, not least technology’s failure so far to demonstrably improve learning.

The report, “System failure: Why Edtech policy needs a critical update”, found that while technology should be working to save teachers’ time, when tech fails to work properly it can have the opposite effect.

Other problems highlighted in the report include a lack of independent evidence making it hard to know which technology, applications, and systems are effective and which are not.

Developers face heavily localized procurement making it difficult to scale-up successful technologies. Teachers, often enthusiastic about tech, are let down by inadequate systems or their own lack of training.

The report called on governments to take action across four key areas:

  1. Prioritize evidence-gathering about edtech, setting up testbed schools and keeping updated about initiatives across the world.
  2. Support teachers by listening to their needs and training them adequately to use learning tech.
  3. Make sure the right products reach the market by publishing clear purchasing guidelines.
  4. Make learning technologies part of the wider education strategy by setting up a cross-sector edtech task force.

“The great tragedy right now is that learning technologies are still an afterthought. Today, just a handful of the world’s governments have anything resembling a working edtech policy. Examples of best-practice are few and far between. The political narrative about technology in education is worryingly similar to that of 50 years ago. Real change, we are told, is always just 10 years away. Our world does not have another 10 years to get it righ,” said Vikas Pota, chairman of the Varkey Foundation.

“It’s no secret that education policymaking struggles to keep up with the pace of technology. But it shouldn’t stand still. Around the world, major industries and business have spent decades preparing for a future that they know will be dominated by tech. Ministers of education desperately need to start doing the same. The answer won’t be found just by putting more computers in classrooms but by addressing the political blockages that too often prevent edtech from succeeding.”

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