Over 100 education policymakers from 32 countries gathered last week in Seoul to share lessons, experiences and opinions in response to the following question:
How should an education system structure itself to meet new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities related to the use of information and communication technologies, and what roles and responsibilities could/should a dedicated ICT/education agency or unit play?
This was the theme of the fourth global symposium on ICT and education , an annual event that the World Bank has co-sponsored with the Korean Education & Research and Information Service (KERIS)  and the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) and other partners, including UNESCO Bangkok, Intel and the IDB. (Proceedings from previous symposia are available here , here , here  and here .)
This global symposium was believed to be the first ever global gathering of leaders of national ICT/education agencies (and their equivalents) from OECD, middle income and low income countries to share information about what is working, and what isn’t, and possible roads ahead, especially as it relates to the development of institutions dedicated to directing the implementation of initiatives in this area.
While the event was targeted for participants from medium and low income countries, the first day featured presentations from OECD countries whose national ICT/education agencies have been (or are being) dissolved, radically downsized or re-structured (UK, Australia, Japan), and one from a country (Korea) whose national agency which has escaped such a fate, as a way to highlight potential future challenges for similar institutions emerging in less developed countries, and potential responses to such challenges.
One key difference between the experience of the national agency in Korea and those in Australia, Japan and the UK was that funding for KERIS was written into the national law related to education to embed it firmly within the structures of the existing education system, help to ensure that it would be less susceptible swings in opinion by political leaders over time. (For more comments on this topic, please see a related blog post from Keith Krueger of CoSN .)
Prior to this year's event, many countries -- especially in Asia -- had expressed an interest in "setting up an national institution like KERIS", and so specific attention was paid to lessons learned from the KERIS experience. Multiple sessions examined the development of national institutions in Korea to implement ICT/education initiatives in order to provide participants with a more granular exposure to various aspects of the Korean experience.
Separate sessions focused on KERIS included: (a) how KERIS, the national ICT/education agency, was conceived and started; (b) on what KERIS does today and how; (c) a roundtable discussion with the president of KERIS and his key lieutenants in areas such as education management information systems (EMIS); educational resources and portals; open courseware; and forward-looking research; and (d) a site visit to KERIS headquarters.
In recent years KERIS has engaged with numerous developing countries to share its experiences more widely, and has established many partnerships with emerging national initiatives in other parts of the world.
One of the goals of this year's global symposium was not only to further enable existing channels for knowledge sharing between leaders of national ICT/education efforts within Asia that go back many years (UNESCO-Bangkok  has played a key role in animating such discussions over the past decade, and has published a series  of  related  toolkits ), but also to expose institution leaders in Asian countries to the rich experiences in Latin America related to ICT use in education. To this end, the Inter-american Development Bank was brought on as a partner in the event, and a number of cases from South America were highlighted. The cases of Chile and Uruguay were specifically cited by Asian participants as of keen interest, and a number of connections were established between these South American countries and Asian counterparts for knowledge exchange going forward.
It will be especially interesting to see what sort of linkages may be formed going forward between Korea and Uruguay, two emerging regional hubs for knowledge sharing on implementation issues related to the large-scale use of educational technologies, and how lessons from these two countries may impact and inform strategic decisions in other countries around the world.
As a result of this global symposium, case studies of countries identified by participants from Asia as of keen interest and relevance will be collected together into a publication that will serve as a companion document to this event. This publication will come out some time in mid-2011; profiles of these cases will be featured on the EduTech blog as they are completed. Going forward, it expected that the annual global symposium in Seoul may be linked thematically each year to an annual minister-level event in Asia on ICT/education issues convened by UNESCO-Bangkok
Of potential related interest:
KERIS regularly publishes numerous white papers and other reports in English as a way to share lessons learned with a broader, international audience.
- White papers 
- Annual reports 
- Overview of KERIS's activities 
- Contacting KERIS about possibilities for international cooperation 
A number of the items and issues discussed during the symposium were previously featured on the World Bank's EduTech blog. For the convenience of participants in Seoul, some of these have been collected together here for quick access:
- The blog post that inspired this year's event: Building national ICT/education agencies 
- ICT & Education: Eleven Countries to Watch -- and Learn From 
- Learning from Becta 
- Uruguay's Plan Ceibal: The world's most ambitious roll-out of educational technologies?  and two other posts about Uruguay: What happens when *all* children and teachers have their own laptops  and How do you evaluate a plan like Ceibal? 
- Linking up with Enlaces (Chile) 
- One Mouse Per Child 
- Worst practice in ICT use in education  and Failing in public -- one way to talk openly about (and learn from) 'failed' projects 
- Ten comments on 1-to-1 computing in education 
- Comparing ICT use in education across countries 
- There have also been many posts about impact and evaluation 
- European Schoolnet published a Compendium of ICT in Education Networks  [link to PDF] over the summer.
- The most complete discussion of the Australian experience can be found in the doctoral dissertation of Gerry White (one of the speakers at this year's event), Diffusion of ICT in education and the role of collaboration: a study of EdNA .
Note: The image at the top of this blog post ("KERIS -- at the cutting edge") of the traditional dagger in Southeast Asia known as the kris or keris (also, by sheer coincidence, the acronym for the Korean national ICT/education agency) comes from Gunkarta  Gunawan Kartapranata via Wikimedia Commons  and is used according to the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license . The public domain image in the middle of this blog post of the rainbow fountain at Banpo Bridge across the Han River in downtown Seoul ("building bridges in Korea") from photographer Gu Gyobok (photographer) and the Seoul Metropolitan government comes via Wikimedia Commons .