Empowering educators and learners: Insights and strategies from the EdTech Readiness Index
CRISTÓBAL COBO, MARIE-HELENE CLOUTIER, MARJORIE CHINEN & EMMA LAMBERT-PORTER
The EdTech Readiness Index (ETRI) was created to monitor and support education and technology (EdTech) policies and practices globally. The World Bank, with support from Imaginable Futures, created the ETRI to enable countries to identify good practices and areas where EdTech policies can be strengthened, and monitor progress made by governments in this field. The tool aids cross-country analysis and serves as an actionable instrument to collect valuable information, which can motivate actions and signal a country’s level of EdTech readiness to high-level policymakers. The following illustration provides a synthesis of the six main pillars that are required to build the foundation of a robust and effective EdTech policy and implementation.
The ETRI framework’s six main pillars
As announced earlier, the ETRI is structured into six pillars: School management, teachers, students, devices, connectivity, and digital resources. The ETRI was designed as a high-level and cost-effective tool to inform decisions and signal why, where and how schools can implement digital tools to increase learning opportunities and reduce inequalities. During its piloting phase in 2022, the ETRI was implemented in five countries: the Dominican Republic, Nepal, Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City), Sierra Leone, and Niger. What follows are some preliminary findings and key takeaways from the ETRI pilot.
Key takeaways of country pilots
The pilots—conducted in different regions and education settings—highlighted the significance of five cross-cutting enablers that countries can implement to establish resilient EdTech policies. Here are five takeaways from these pilots:
1. Coherence: A clear goal and purpose can help ensure a systemic approach to digital learning through national education ICT policies. Governments should consider taking measures to identify and monitor different digital divides to ensure a systemic approach to digital learning through national education ICT policies that benefit all children. The most useful EdTech strategy is aligned with national priorities that focus on education and learning, as well as infrastructure and connectivity.
2. Budget: Prioritize what is needed and identify the costs required for EdTech planning and implementation; Consider a holistic approach, not just devices or software; Maximize the cost-effectiveness; and monitor and evaluate the impact of the resources on student outcomes.
3. Connection: Deploying a connectivity plan that includes schools both in urban centers and rural areas can make digital learning more effective. Governments can explore appropriate telecommunication technologies for different contexts and define a minimum bandwidth target for internet connectivity. It is essential to ensure coordination between education administrators and telecommunication operators, as well as monitor the quality of the internet connection on a regular basis.
4. Capacities: The provision of devices (such as computers, laptops, etc.) for management, teaching, and learning can be enhanced by a systematic capacity-building plan. Integrating digital technologies into the classroom would ensure that teachers and students can use them effectively and improve student learning experience.
5. Curation: Good implementation plans define quality standards and ensure access to high-quality digital education resources and platforms. They prioritize learning software and content that supports teaching at the right level, with a focus on foundational literacy and numeracy. Starting with creating new digital education resources is unlikely to be a winning strategy. Using what’s available and aligned with curriculum is a recommended first step.
What are the main results and critical actions identified from this multi-country data collection pilot?
Edtech has become an essential component of education, and integrating it successfully requires defining priorities, implementing effectively, and monitoring progress. An EdTech strategy to support education systems should be more than a high-level blueprint. It should identify goals, governance, a roadmap, technical teams, a business plan, quality standards, and monitoring plans.
To ensure that high-level policies are translated into changes in the classroom, teachers require on-site support to integrate technology effectively into their teaching. The results indicate that most teachers need clear guidelines on how to use digital technology for their professional practice to deliver curriculum, and to develop students’ digital competences with examples on how to apply them in the classroom (see this comparative report). Incorporating these guidelines into teachers’ professional development would allow them to build their ICT skills and improve their self-efficacy over time.
Better data are needed to understand when, how, and why digital devices are used inside and outside the classroom. Regular feedback could inform the effectiveness of the existing policies and indicate where additional work is needed (review this guide about Education Management and Monitoring Information).
There is plenty of room to adopt more innovative technologies in the classroom. Schools often report the use of traditional software, such as word processors, in the classroom, but newer platforms and resources are less common. However, there is great scope for improving and expanding the access and use of devices and digital education resources (find examples of innovative adaptive or personalized platforms here).
Ensuring that digital education is inclusive and addresses accessibility is still a key challenge. In all pilot countries, learning devices and educational technologies could be made more inclusive and adaptable for learners with special needs. Schools also could improve their planning (procurement, training) and the quality parameters (e.g., principles, standards) for adopting assistive technologies (explore this EdTech landscape for disability-inclusive education).
While connectivity has become the “lifeline for digital education,” it is still a major challenge for many schools. Availability of sufficient Internet connectivity is high in some contexts (e.g., Ho Chi Minh City) but very low in others. Where connectivity is a challenge, the education sector can choose, prioritize and procure education platforms and content that could be used offline (see an example of offline-first learning platform).
What is next?
Governments are encouraged to move beyond access and plan for quality assurance mechanisms, including minimum standards to evaluate digital learning. They can also look beyond technology and avoid replicating outdated models of teaching and learning, setting the stage for more personalized learning by giving students agency, autonomy, and ownership over their learning. For a government to leapfrog toward a digital transformation in education, providing more than infrastructure within the education system is crucial. Human transformation also plays a central role, and authorities should consider not only the opportunities for training but also the necessary assistance, incentives, and support. Flexibility is paramount, and the supply of training opportunities for in-person, online, and/or hybrid learning could provide that flexibility.
In 2023, the ETRI team will expand the data collection into new countries and share best practices and lessons to reimagine education beyond the classroom.
For more details, contact us at [email protected]. To access additional information about the instrument, methodology, results, and lessons learned via a series of global public goods, visit the EdTech readiness webpage. Listen to the last World Bank EdTech Podcast on Measuring EdTech Readiness: A conversation about the EdTech Readiness Index