South-South Knowledge Exchange and Study Tour
on the Use of ICTs in Education
Uruguay – Armenia – Tatarstan (Russia) - Argentina
In April 2012, a World Bank education sector team accompanied delegations from the Republic of Armenia and the Russian Republic of Tatarstan on a study visit hosted by the government of Uruguay. The goal of the visit was to exchange practical lessons, insights and perspectives related to the use of information and communications technologies(ICT) in education between policymakers and practitioners. The study visit was funded by the World Bank’s South-South Experience Exchange Facility Trust Fund.
The visit was hosted by Plan Ceibal, Uruguay’s national agency in charge of implementing its ‘one laptop per child’ policy. Uruguay’s program is seen by many as a world leader in ICT implementation in the education sector. Representatives from Argentina’s Ministry of Education also participated in the knowledge exchange. The study visit included meetings with Plan Ceibal representatives and technicians, visits to public primary schools, and presentations by Conectar Igualdad on the Argentine experience on the use of ICT in education and on their education portal (EDUCA.AR).
Uruguay and Argentina have different arrangements for implementing their ICT programs. In Uruguay, Plan Ceibal is a government-sponsored independent agency operating separately from the Education Ministry. Uruguay has met with success in reaching its impressive ‘one laptop per child’ goal by distributing one laptop to every student in public schools and on connecting all schools to internet. Children can and do take their laptops home, sometimes providing a family’s first experience with a computer. Challenges for the program were discussed quite openly, especially those relating on how teachers can make a better use of the available ICT tools and resourcesand in demonstrating impact on learning outcomes initiative.
Argentina’s Conectar Igualdad program is a national initiative run by the federal government at the secondary level and started in 2010. One of the great strengths of Argentina’s initiative is that it builds upon a body of digital educational resources that the country has been developing through its well known educational portal and education channel. Software with educational content has been tailored for various groups and stakeholders, such as students, teachers, principals, and parents. Argentina has also paired this national initiative at the secondary level with ICT hardware and software initiative for students with disabilities. This includes the distribution of peripheral devices to allow students with disabilities to use modern technologies.
The World Bank team identified several key challenges that these countries are facing and which were of interest for the delegations:
First, strengthening the educational dimension.
The weakest aspects of these programs lies in the poor involvement of teachers and the lack of educational-pedagogical proposals that would add content to this new technological tool. So a key challenge is to ensure the educational system take over the Plan and made the most of all its dimensions.
Second, assessing impact.
Both plans have not demonstrated clear evidence of positive impact yet. The expected impacts are (i) better learning opportunities for the students and gains in student learning, and (ii) better connectivity and access to technology for the families and communities.
Third, ensuring benefits for all.
The projects need to do more to identify and implement innovative strategies and approaches to improve the integration of students with special education needs to ensure they benefit from the introduction of laptops and ICT technologies in the schools.
Fourth, guaranteeing technical support and connectivity.
The projects need to do more to guarantee technical and logistical support for the laptops/netbooks delivered to students and teachers. The plan to connect Bpublic schools, without no exception, has proven to be a challenge in the rural areas, especially in those schools without electric power service. This also requires guaranteeing enough bandwidth so that connectivity is achieved at a reasonable speed.
The objective of the visit was fully met. This was a South-South exchange in true spirit, linking key decision makers from countries of very different characteristics, and half a world apart, through a series of valuable peer learning activities. The delegations from Armenia and Tatarstan returned home with practical lessons from the successes and challenges of Uruguay's comprehensive Plan Ceibal and Argentina’s Conectar Igualdad program from key decision makers and practitioners in those South American countries, informed by site visits to schools and communities as well as a series of meetings at Plan Ceibal headquarters. Insights, perspectives and advice from Armenia and Tatarstan were shared and eagerly consumed and discussed by the host countries as well. The concrete steps already agreed for follow-up between the various parties are testimony to the usefulness of this ‘South-South Knowledge Exchange’, and the team recommends that further activities of this sort be explored.