Earlier this month, the World Bank and the Global Distance Learning Network (GDLN) helped to facilitate a "South-South" dialogue on the use of ICT as part of larger education reform initiatives. The video for the event is now available online. This dialogue, mediated by one of Indonesia's leading talk show hosts and watched live by groups in eight Asian countries, included exchanges between the ministers of education in both Indonesia and Jordan, as well as contributions from other leading figures involved in education and technology in those two countries. Dr. Thiam Seng Koh of the National Institute of Education in Singapore brought in perspectives from the experiences of Singapore, considered one of the world leaders in thinking -- and action -- in this field.
With the buzz from this year's influential TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference (9-13 February) now starting to fade, I thought it might be interesting to re-visit some of the highlights from past conferences on topics related to ICT and education. While presentations at the conference cover a wide variety of topics, some 'TEDtalks' provide quite illuminating, and sometimes quite provocative, glimpses and insights into how technology *might* be used in various innovative ways to enhance education in the future. I am regularly amazed at the number of times that people in ministries of education all around the world ask me about something they first learned about through TED. While we were, yet again, not in attendance this year, the conference organizers have done the wonderful (and laudable!) job of making available the 'TEDtalks' through the TED web site for free.
A few days ago, our country director David Dollar blogged about the two-sided picture we see when we look at China's economic growth. The economy saw very weak export demand, which partly carried over into weak investment in manufacturing and other "market-based" sectors. Continued growth in other parts of the domestic economy was supported by policy stimulus.
China has weathered the crisis better than many other countries because it does not rely on external financing, its banks have been largely unscathed by the international financial turmoil, and it has the fiscal and macroeconomic space to implement forceful stimulus measures. China’s government has made use of this policy space by pursuing pretty forceful fiscal and monetary stimulus. From early November last year onwards, the government's 10-point plan ("RMB 4 trillion package") is being implemented. This plan emphasizes infrastructure and other investment, financed in part by government budget spending, and in part by bank lending. And the government has taken some additional, more consumption-oriented measures.
Despite increasing attention to the impact of ICT on teaching and learning in various ways, the ICT/education field continues to be littered with examples of poor evaluation work. A few of them arrive in my in-box every week.
There are many potential reasons advanced for the general poor quality of much of this work. One is simple bias -- many evaluations are done and/or financed by groups greatly invested in the success of a particular initiative, and in such cases findings of positive impact are almost foregone conclusions. Many (too many, some will argue) evaluations are restricted to gauging perceptions of impact, as opposed to actual impact. Some studies are dogged by sloppy science (poor methodologies, questionable data collection techniques), others attempt to extrapolate finds from carefully nurtured, hothouse flower pilot projects in ways that are rather dubious. (The list of potential explanations is long; we'll stop here for now.)
Going forward, isn't it more likely that the ICT tool of choice for students in developing countries will be the mobile phone, and not the computer? This is a question of hot debate in many circles. Whatever the eventual resulution of this debate (and no doubt it will not yield a simple either/or answer), there are still precious few widespread examples of the use of phones for education purposes in classrooms in developing countries. It's inevitable that various forms of low cost handheld computing and communication devices for students (and perhaps one of these will be something still called a 'phone') will proliferate in schools in developing countries in the coming decade. But perhaps the mobile phone's impact in the education sector will be more widely, and quickly, felt in another way?
|The Hebei province produces one-quarter of China's steel, and has felt sharply the country's slowdown in investment during the financial crisis.|
In a recent paper, Alaka Holla and Michael Kremer appear to resolve this controversial issue by surveying findings of a series of randomized evaluations. They conclude that user fees in health and education do reduce access. On page 33 of their 45-page paper, they mention that they have not looked at the impact of user fees on provider incentives. Yet this may be the crux of the debate. Everyone would be in favor of lowering or eliminating us