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Questions for policymakers seeking to create or restructure a national educational technology agency

Michael Trucano's picture
before you offer your stamp of approval, here are a few more things you might want to consider
before you offer your stamp of approval,
here are a few more things you might want to consider
This week, policymakers and practitioners from around the world are gathering in Korea at the 11th annual Global Symposium on ICT Use in Education to discuss areas of emerging common interest related to the effective (and ineffective) uses of new technologies in education systems around the world. As in the past, KERIS, Korea's famous national edtech agency, is the host and organizer of this event.

Many of these participants represent institutions key to the implementation of educational technology efforts in their countries; many others are government officials responsible for developing the policy environments within which these institutions operate.

A new World Bank publication, Building and Sustaining National Educational Technology Agencies: Lessons, Models and Case Studies from Around the World, documents and analyzes a diverse set of implementation models and experiences from around the world related to national initiatives supporting the use of technology in schools of relevance to many of the participants at this year's symposium.

Drawing on interviews and discussions with government policymakers in scores of countries around the world during the course of writing this book, my collaborator Gavin Dykes and I developed a set of ten short, thematic questions to help catalyze discussions during the initial stages of planning for the development of national educational technology ('ICT/education') agencies. These questions are meant to highlight potential areas of critical importance (and confusion), based on the experiences of more than two dozen national ICT/education agencies over time in a diverse set of places. It is hoped that these questions, and the conversations that they provoke, can serve as entry points into deeper, more fundamental discussions, providing a bridge of sorts between the recognition of specific educational needs and priorities in one country with practical experiences in others.

No matter how brilliant or 'visionary' a country's educational technology policies and plans might be on paper, or when expressed as a set of bullet points in a PowerPoint presentation, transforming such policies and plans into practical actions 'on the ground' is what is important. It doesn't really matter what you want to do if you don't have the institutional capacity to do it. In the hope that presenting them here might be useful to countries considering, and re-considering, various models to help develop and sustain this capacity, here are:
Ten discussion questions for policymakers seeking to create or restructure
a national educational technology agency
1. Goals: Why are you doing this? What is the purpose, and why can't you do it through existing structures, organizations or mechanisms?

2. Needs: Is the desire to create a national ICT/education agency a response to a short term need ... or part of a long term vision?

3. Change: Is this about reinforcing or extending existing educational practices, or changing/reforming them? How does this fit in with existing policies, strategies and visions?

4. Partners: Who are the key stakeholder groups whose support will be critical if the agency is to meet its responsibilities? Are you seeking to extend control from the top, or to engage a stakeholder community from below?

5. Models: Do you want to do this inside or outside of government? Is there a particular organizational model you wish to adopt, based on the experiences of a similar type of institution?

6. Learning from the past: Has something similar been tried before in your country, and if so, what lessons were learned from this experience?

7. Evaluation: What would success look like (over five years, over ten years) and how will you know if you have ‘succeeded’ or not?

8. Funding: How are you going to pay for this?

9. Legal: What legal measures or environment is required?

10. Opportunities: What new opportunities do you see arising in coming years related to the potential for ICT use in education, how can you plan for them, and how relevant will this new institution be to realizing this potential?

There is no one 'right answer' to these sorts of questions, of course. Indeed, answers can and do vary greatly by place, circumstance, and time. What worked yesterday, and what worked today, might not work tomorrow. Conversely, some of the 'wrong' answers from past years may simply have been wrong because they were premature; approaches that didn't work in the past might be worth reconsidering as circumstances change. (Let's acknowledge, though, that some approaches are unlikely to be effective, no matter when and where they are introduced; when it comes to technology use in education, inclinations to support and fund certain 'worst practices' resurface with depressing regularity around the world.)

These are not the only questions of this sort that need to be posed, nor necessarily even the most important ones for policymakers in a given country. That said, it is hoped that people engaged in the sorts of national conversations that can be catalyzed by questions of these sorts can benefit from sharing perspectives, information and lessons with their counterparts in other countries.

As the Global Symposium on ICT Use in Education enters its second decade, discussions at the event about the 'potential' of the use of new technologies in education have given way to very practical knowledge sharing about very practical approaches to rolling out the use of ICTs in education at scale, and supporting this use over time. When it comes to explorations of technology use in education, what used to happen on the periphery as 'pilot projects' is increasingly becoming central to many activities across an entire education system. Given the increasingly large sums of money being spent on educational technologies, and how integral their use is meant to be within larger educational strategies and reform efforts in many countries, ministries of education can't afford to get this stuff wrong. As with anything, the devil is in the details, of course. Equipping the folks tending to these details with as much information and perspective as possible, and establishing support networks comprising their peers in other countries to which they can turn for inspiration and advice, will only grow in importance and value in the coming years.

You may also be interested in the following posts from the EduTech blog:  
Note: The image at the top of this post of a stamp ("before you offer your stamp of approval, here are a few more things you might want to consider") is in the public domain (CC0 1.0). It comes courtesy of PixaBay.

[Version française]