How Countries are Using Educational Technology to Support Learning During COVID-19 Pt.1

Many industries experienced a standstill from the onset of the pandemic, and technology seemed to be invincible until everyone turned to their mobile devices and computer systems. Then it started to crumble under the weight of demand. But that did not last long.

Companies mandated their staff to work from home, and freelancing became the greater order of the day. Streaming platforms bore the brunt of closed cinemas and entertainment hubs, and education is now mostly online.

All these, on the back of technology. 

A while ago there were conspiracy theories that 5G was a plan from a country to take over the world, but more people are now concerned with the importance of seamless interconnectivity and the ways we can leverage technology to have better lives.

As schools have been shut down to protect children and vulnerable people from spreading or contacting the viruses, countries around the world have seen an increase in educational technology systems to keep students busy while at home. Edutech or Edtech, as commonly abbreviated, is a combination of IT tools and educational practices aimed at facilitating and enhancing learning.

This article will highlight how some countries are applying technology to support remote learning, as the pandemic ravages on.

in Afghanistan, The Directorate of Technical and Vocational Education put out TVET guidelines called “Alternative Education Scheme for Persistence of ‘Corona Virus’ in the Country​”. Distance learning with a combination of multimedia, video and print media was implemented, focused on using local solutions to avoid dependencies.

“Some of these alternative options include printing and distributing chapters of textbooks; broadcasting video lessons through television and radio; broadcasting videos through websites, portals, social media (Facebook and YouTube); making videos available via memory cards and CDs; or audio lessons through the medium of mobile phones.”

Argentina’s educational portal of the Ministry of Education of Argentina Educ.ar aimed at providing curated digital resources for teachers, administrators, students and families. The ministry of education developed the program: gram “Seguimos Educando”, and the secretariat for media and public communication began broadcasting educational content from April 1, 2020. The program airs 14 hours of TV content and 7 hours of Radio content daily, specially produced for students as a result of school closures.

“The television broadcasts premiered on the public channels and then also broadcast by private, provincial, university, cooperative and community channels. Radio Nacional and its 49 subsidiaries throughout the country have been broadcasting 7 programs daily of 1 hour each.”

Image credit: Edtech East Africa

In Bangladesh, Bangladesh Television (BTV), started broadcasting education television lessons for students for grades six to ten​. The program, called “My School at My Home” broadcasts daily from 9.00 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. local time

In Bhutan, The Ministry of Education (MoE) launched the Bhutan e-Learning program​. it started on March 27, 2020, and allows students from PreK-12 to access content through educational television and Youtube. The need to reduce data charges increased after Google classrooms became much more widely used due to the closure of schools. Different Telcos, like Bhutan Telecom (BT) and TashiCell​, are working with the government to provide additional data for students

Schools across the country are also collecting data on the number of students with access to the Internet, smartphones, and television.

Other schools are using social media applications like Wechat or WhatsApp, where teachers assign students with specific chapters to read and a set of questions to respond to. Students are required to answer the questions and send an image of their answers back to teachers to assess.

The Bulgaria ministry of science and technology launched an e-learning system on March 16 2020. Publishers provide free online textbooks from Grade 1-10. Nearly 89% of students are enrolled in e-learning. Each student is enrolled in distance learning six hours a day, with parents assisting in pedagogical learning. 

The Ministry of Education and Science (MES) developed a National Electronic Library of Teachers (e-Content Repository), to support the e-learning, which contains but is not limited to materials for pedagogical specialists, tests, film and video lessons, entertaining presentations, as well as with research, student work, curiosity, motivating elements, feedback, group and individual work, creation and the application of a variety of skills.

In ChinaThe Ministry of Education launched an initiative entitled “Ensuring learning undisrupted when classes are disrupted.” Nearly 200 million primary and secondary school students in China started their new semester online on February 9 2020.

With all face-to-face meetings banned, the Ministry of Education partnered with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to:

  • Mobilize all major telecom service providers to boost internet connectivity service for online education, especially for the under-served regions.
  • Mobilize society-wide resources for the provision of online courses and resources. More than 24,000 online courses have been made accessible for university students. 22 validated online course platforms, most them empowered by Artificial Intelligence, have been mobilized to provide primary and secondary schools with free online courses. 
  • Strengthen online security through collaboration with the telecom sector and online platform service providers. 
  • ​Provision of psycho-social support and courses to impart knowledge about the virus and protection against it.
  • Adopt flexible and appropriate methodologies to facilitate learning. Schools and teachers are advised to choose appropriate modes of delivery based on local e-readiness, including online platforms, digitalized TVs or mobile Apps. Teachers have received guidance on teaching methodologies including through live-streaming of online tutorials and MOOCs. The recommended number of online learning hours varies by grade.

Read more about the National Cloud-Platform for Educational Resources and Public Service of China.

In Colombia, Families with Internet access and technology resources have access to “Aprender digital“, a platform of the Ministry of Education with more than 80,000 digital learning resources, organized by grades, in different modalities (games, videos, etc.), accessible by for teachers, principals, and other actors, covering pre-primary to middle school education. 

The government also planned to design a kit to learn from home (“kit de aprendizaje en casa”), for families without access to the internet; also organized by grade, integrating different types of resources (games, self-learning resources, family activities, art, etc.). this kit was to be built by April 2020. the country began broadcasting educational programs both on public radio and television for students from primary to middle school across the country, in coordination with teachers and educational institutions.

Costa Rica hosts digital learning on the central website for educators, developing strategies to support learning at home, as a result of the COVID crisis. As not all families have internet access, they are using public media to broadcast educational programs (for students, parents, and teachers) about different subjects. They are also developing virtual content for teachers (a virtual classroom, a guide for autonomous work, etc.) and content related to cybersecurity for young people to protect students who are learning online.

For extensive reading, visit the World Bank website here.

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