PolicyTechnology

How Countries are Using Educational Technology to Support Learning During COVID-19 Pt. 3

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.

 

MALDIVES, The Ministry of Education instructed schools to identify students who do not have access to either television or internet services and is currently engaged in research into alternative teaching methods to ensure the education of students go uninterrupted.

The ministry organised classes through radio channels and has already initiated discussions regarding airing teleclasses with Dhiraagu through the broadcasting channel. The scheme is targeted for students below the tenth grade. Under the scheme, the digital resources needed to teach the students will be prepared and developed. The resources will be shared with students via the education portal and online.

MAURITIUS 

The Ministry of Education has been putting in place a COVID-19 response plan to ensure continued learning during the crisis​. The plan includes the development of television programs for the primary education level; enhancing the e-learning platform for the secondary education level; support the use of Zoom and Microsoft Teams platforms for video-conferencing lessons for the upper secondary and tertiary education levels. 

At the primary level, television programs have been rolled out for grades 1-9 on dedicated education television channels. The education ministry aims to also explore the use of radio programs for specific subjects such as languages, and children with visual impairments.

At the lower secondary level (grades 7-9), in addition to television programming, the education ministry is leveraging an existing e-learning platform and looking to expand its content. Students can access the platform through mobile phones or computers. There are ongoing discussions to be able to zero-rate these websites.

For upper secondary school students (grades 10-13), there are many open resources available online. The education ministry is organizing these resources and aims at making them available on the ministry’s e-learning platform.

NIGERIA

The Federal Ministry of Education and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) have set up a separate Task Team responsible for a coordinated education response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The task team aims to provide guidance, information, and resources to support students across Nigeria’s 36 states and Federal Capital Territory to continue their education and individualize their learning at home. The task force has a dedicated webpage within the FME’s website and aims to provide real-time guidance on learning resources and support for monitoring children at home.

Towards this, the Task Team has developed a ‘Learn at Home Programme’. The webpage is constantly updated to reflect the status of implementation of the LHP; online resources and options available for equity in teaching and learning; advice on channels that may be used by states; and systems for tracking and monitoring of resources made available for this purpose. FME and UBEC in collaboration with National and State governments aim to provide context-appropriate resources that allow students, teachers, and schools to capitalise on home-based learning. These resources may include homework assignments, reading material, radio, television, online content, and online learning. 

The Task Team has set forth a three-tier plan guided by each of the three plausible scenarios: Scenario 1 where schools are closed for one month; Scenario 2 where schools are closed for one to three months; and Scenario 3 where schools are closed for an extended period of more than three months.

To support learning, the digital learning resources shared by the Task Team fall under three categories. First, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) e-Learning portal provides resources to support students to better prepare for examinations. Second, a partnership has been struck with the Mobile Classroom App to open up its lessons and resources to all students at no cost during the school closure period. Third, a partnership with School Gate allows all primary school students to access its courses for free during this period.

PARAGUAY

The government of Paraguay signed an agreement with Microsoft to cover the e-learning needs of 60,000 teachers and 1,200,000 students at zero cost. 

Image credit: Edtech East Africa

PERU

The Ministry of Education announced the distribution of over 800,000 tablets to children in rural areas and the 1st and 2nd quintile of the income distribution in urban areas. The plan is that all these tablets will have an internet connection, and in areas where there is no electricity, the tablets will be delivered with solar chargers. Also, the Ministry of Education announced the purchase of more 97,000 tablets with the same characteristics for teachers. All these acquisitions, for both students and teachers, will cost more than 600 million Peruvian ​soles ($177 million). The Ministry of Education is curating digital content (its content as well as content from allies and partners) and supporting the creation of new content, to have content that aligns with all of the curricula.

In the first stage, the Ministry is sensitizing the population, raising awareness, and working on different topics with families. In the second stage, the Ministry has begun to focus on distance learning, prioritizing its “plataforma unica” (single learning platform).

Curated content is being made available on national radio and television. The Ministry is working with local radio channels to broadcast the education content in local languages.

In Russia, a working group in the Ministry of Science and Higher Education was established to help the higher education institutions to organize distance learning. By now, all the universities, which report to the federal ministry (248), and almost 70% of all the Russian universities have transferred the educational process online, which was launched on Instagram. Using the Instagram hashtag #универдома (“uni at home”), students and university staff are sharing their ideas in adapting to a new online learning environment.

The Ministry holds regular online translation on the Ministry’s YouTube channel and organizes webinars for universities. The Ministry has also launched a hotline and a website for universities (“Keep learning, Keep teaching”) with methodological support and has published a list of available free online courses on its website. The University 2035 (the online platform established by the Agency of Strategic Initiatives) will also provide methodological support to universities. Universities are sharing their experience in the moving educational process online on the ScienpolicyTelegram channel. The Ministry is currently piloting a new service for school graduates so that they can apply to the university programs online, using the state portal Gosuslugi.

The Rwanda Education Board (REB) has taken a few steps to support students with remote learning. It has begun broadcasting education radio programs as of April 4, 2020, which are also available on its district-level radio stations such as Huye, Musanze, Rubavu, Nyagatare, Rusizi, as well as the Parliament station. Broadcasts are aired on all weekdays for 6 hours. The broadcasting began with literacy lessons for primary grade students on Radio Rwanda. It has also launched a new YouTube channel called REB learning with on-demand content for students. While currently, it provides lessons in English language, elementary science and advanced sciences such as chemistry, mathematics and biology among others, the REB is working on constantly adding more learning content to the YouTube channel. The platform also aims to facilitate peer learning among teachers.

REB has also partnered with local telecommunication companies like MTN Rwanda and Airtel to waive internet fees for students to ease their access to these e-learning portals, a practice called zero-rating.

The Rwanda Education Board (REB) is also emphasizing digital skills development and e-learning, with a multi-format approach that includes text, audio, images, animation, and streaming video, and technology applications and processes such as audio or videotape, satellite TV, CD-ROM, and computer-based learning, as well as local intranet and web-based learning. The REB e-learning platform has already been in place. However, to increase its usage, local telecommunication companies are playing an important support role by waiving bundle charges. Using this platform, students have online access to books depending on their grade levels, review questions and can engage with tutors who provide support for this online learning experience. Besides, students can access REB’s YouTube channel, ​with lessons for both students and teachers. 

The Rwanda Education Board also started a new radio learning program. The first lesson was aired on Radio Rwanda on April 4, 2020. REB is now looking to start learning programmes on television, targeting sciences and mathematics that are hard to deliver only through radio.

For extensive reading, visit the World Bank website here.

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