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ICT & Education: Eleven Countries to Watch -- and Learn From

Michael Trucano's picture

KERIS looms increasingly large on the international ICT/education scene | image attribution at bottomAs part of engagements with ministries of education around the world, I am often asked to provide lists of countries considered to be 'best practice examples of ICT use in education'. I am asked this so often that I thought I'd provide a representative list here to help point people in some useful directions, in case doing so might be of any interest.

But before I get to the list ...

First, I'd like to say that I prefer the term 'good practice' to 'best practice'.  This may seem to be unnecessary semantic nitpicking, but in many if not most cases and places, learning from and adapting 'good' practices is often much more practical -- and more likely to lead to success.  

And: Given that many initiatives seem immune to learning from either 'best' or even 'good' practice in other places, I am coming to the conclusion that it may be most practical to recommend countries that have had 'lots of practice' (of any kind).  Is this ideal?  Obviously no -- but it tends to yield better results. For whatever reason, there appears to be a natural learning curve that accompanies large scale adoption of ICTs in the education sector in many countries, and that there is an important element of 'learning by doing' that appears to be important, even if this means 'repeating the mistakes' of others. (This is a process often known in international development circles as 'capacity building'.)

Television for a change (revolution in a box)

Michael Trucano's picture

public domain image of the Braun HF television from 1958 comes courtesy of Oliver Kurmis via Wikimedia CommonsA quick check of the user logs for the World Bank's EduTech blog shows that postings on the use of mobile phones in education consistently draw the most readers.  While highlighting the new and innovative appears to grab the attention of visitors, there is no denying the impact that 'old' technologies like radio and television continue to have on education around the world.  In an optimistic cover story in the most recent edition of Foreign Policy magazine, my World Bank colleague Charles Kenny makes the case in Revolution in a Box that, despite the recent hype around new Web 2.0 tools (like Twitter or Facebook), it is not the computer, but the TV that "can still save the world". 

Surveying the use of mobile phones in education worldwide

Michael Trucano's picture

image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons, sourced from Flickr user saschapohflepp, used according the terms of its Creative Commons licenseThe Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools in India has just announced a mobile phone ban, echoing similar calls in many other places (from Sri Lanka to South Korea, from the UK to the Philippines to France) to restrict student access to what are often seen as 'devices of distraction'.

Why then will the World Bank will be kicking off a study next month looking at "The Use of Mobile Phones in Education in Developing Countries"?

Computers in secondary schools: Whither India?

Michael Trucano's picture

CC-licensed photo courtesy of World Bank via Flickr, SDM-IN-097The German scholar Max Müller famously remarked that "If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions, I should point to India."

No doubt there are many other countries also deserving of similar sorts of accolades, but the challenges that India currently faces related to providing universal access to a relevant and quality education for everyone -- and the solutions it deploys to meet such challenges -- are of increasing interest and relevance to people around the world.  This is especially true as it relates to the use of ICTs to meet a variety of educational and developmental objectives.

Cyberabad Dreams ...

Michael Trucano's picture

spotlight on Hyderabad | image from Azgar Khan used according to terms of its CC license, see below for infoHow do you develop the skills in your workforce necessary to compete in dynamic, fast-moving sectors of the global economy?  I just returned from India, where I joined colleagues from Africa in a series of site visits, learning events and presentations in the Indian IT hubs of Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore in seeking answers to this (and related) questions.  More specifically, the trip provided a rich opportunity to learn more about the 'India success story' of the last 20 years in the areas of IT, IT-enabled services and business process outsourcing (BPO), gathering policy and practice lessons of potential relevance and application to Africa.  In many countries, including many African countries, proposals for the widespread introduction of computers in schools is explicitly tied to goals to develop so-called 'knowledge workers' to work in nascent IT industries. How explicit is this link in reality?

In with the Outsourcing Crowd: Learning from Nasscom

Michael Trucano's picture

an empty call centre in Florida ... did all the jobs leave to India?The Nasscom India Leadership Forum in Mumbai is the annual meeting platform at which senior representatives from firms in the Indian software and Indian BPO industries share information, discuss and debate issues.  The Forum is well-covered in the Indian press, and increasingly internationally as well, and the event web site's group blog is a rich source of divergent opinions and perspectives.  Key note speeches from people inside and outside of the industry (including Narayana Murthy, C.K. Prahlad and Shashi Tharoor) were of notably high quality.

It is an interesting time for Nasscom: How will an industry that has only known good times deal with the current economic downturn?  How will individual Indian firms fare?  While the mood at the conference itself was notably serious (especially for an industry event), some tier one Indian companies actually expect to benefit from the downturn.  Many European countries (far behind the US and the UK in terms of outsourcing) are expected to examine costs more closely, which is expected to open up these markets more to Indian BPO providers.  At the same time, new outsourcing destinations are emerging, within India and internationally.  This is happening not just because of the hunt for lower prices and new talent, but also to gain a foothold in new emerging markets. 

An update on the new $10/$20 computer for education in India

Michael Trucano's picture

the Kingfisher arrived in India long ago ... we'll have to wait for the R500 laptop a little longer | image attribution at bottomEn route to Mumbai, I thought I'd pass around some summary information about the new "$10 education laptop" officially announced this week in India.

This has received a great deal of press attention, much of which appears to be (after doing some further investigation) ill-informed / speculative.

Lost in much of the hype has been what is perhaps the more interesting story -- the apparent public commitment by the Indian government to provide subsidized connectivity for schools, colleges and universities, and a related large investment in the development of "e-content", as part of a new "National Mission in Education through Information and Communication Technology (ICT)".  Part of this includes the development of a new national ICT in school education policy.

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