With apologies in advance to initiatives in a handful of other countries considered world leaders in this area (including Costa Rica, Namibia, Thailand, Mexico and Brazil):
Of all the programs in middle income and developing countries that have sought to introduce ICTs systematically into the education, the Chilean experience is perhaps the most lauded. Enlaces has been the subject of much scholarly and policy attention since its inception almost two decades ago (including a publication from the World Bank back in 2004 [pdf]).
The fact that Chile and Enlaces is considered by many to be a global model of good practice presents policymakers in Chile with a(n enviable) challenge:
Where should Chile look for inspiration as it continues to evolve its programs exploring the effective use of ICTs in education?
Like many national ICT and education programs, Enlaces ("links" in Spanish) started primarily as a connectivity pilot project. Unlike many such projects in other countries, its strong links from the beginning with universities ensured it was about more than just the technology, however, and the project included components focused on (for example) teacher professional development and digital content long before many other middle income countries fully recognized the importance of viewing the use of educational technologies holistically.
(This is not to underplay the focus and enormity of the connectivity challenge that confronted Enlaces in its early stages -- schools in Antartica and Easter Island were connected as part of this initiative!)
The success of the Enlaces pilot led to its formal acknowledgement as the national education technology program for Chile; a decade later it was officially absorbed under the Ministry of Education. This evolution -- from pilot to national program to official incorporation by the MOE -- established a rough model that was realized later in many other middle income and developing countries, from Thailand to Uganda.
Today almost 11,00 schools in Chile participate in Enlaces in various ways, and over 110,000 teachers have participated in its professional development programs. The national education portal is considered a model by many other countries. By next year, the government projects that it will have a student: computer ratio of 10:1. Many other countries look at such figures with envy.
Being an early model does not always easily translate into sustained leadership over time, however, especially when new, disruptive technologies threaten to compel a paradigm shift in the way we conceive of the use of technologies in education. Indeed, despite its early 'lead', Chile is no longer such an outlier in these respects in the Americas. Uruguay especially has captured a great deal of the 'mindshare' and attention due to its ambitious roll-out of 1-to-1 computing for all primary students under Plan Ceibal (and has already begun plans to extend this to all secondary schools students). A large installed base of computers -- and computer labs -- may, for example, complicate a transition to the widely-predicted pervasive use of handheld devices (like mobile phones) for educational purposes by teachers and students going forward, offering other countries an opportunity to potentially 'leapfrog' (to use a popular term -- but not one I particularly like) Chile. If lessons from OECD countries are any guide, increasing densities of computers inside (and outside) of schools will no doubt make child online safety issues more acute, and issues related intellectual property rights and privacy will gain greater prominence. While changes in technological advances will
Whither Chile, then?
For more information about Enlaces in English (a quick Google search will yield lots of useful information in Spanish, beginning with the official program web site):
- Technology in Schools: Education, ICT and the Knowledge Society [pdf]
- Chile: Building the National Learning Network “Enlaces” [pdf]
- Enlaces: The Chilean ICT Experience in Education [pdf]
(Many thanks to Enrique Hinostroza for his many reports on Enlaces and Chile.)
- The United States has been engaged in a broad consultation process as part of the development of a revision to its National Education Technology Plan. The process has been a model of inclusiveness in many ways -- especially when compared with how such processes roll out in many other parts of the world. Much like the current on-going process in India, the public is welcome to contibute comments and suggestions on-line -- and to see what others are saying about this as well. (No doubt there is a related Twitter hash tag, but I haven't been able to locate it.) Whether it is a gimmick or true innovation (or just a curious experiment) readers of this blog with reliable broadband access may wish to pop in on a scheduled meeting in Second Life on 5 November (at 6pm SLT -- that's 'Second Life Time' for those unfamiliar with the acronym), organized by ISTE and the University of Michigan (USA).
- Those interested in the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project may want to have a look at a working paper recently published on the website of the Inter-american Development Bank, OLPC Pre-Pilot Evaluation Report (Haiti). This is one in a series of publications that will be surfacing in the coming months on this well-publicized global initiative.
- Following on the publication earlier this year of Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children’s Learning [pdf], the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop has announced a new prize designed "to push the current boundaries of mobile learning". This announcement came at the Breakthrough Learning in the Digital Age event that occurred earlier this week at Google.
- Next month the World Bank, together with its partners the Korean Education Research & Information Servcie (KERIS) and UNESCO-Bangkok, will co-sponsor two ICT/education events for policymakers in East Asia, the first in Seoul, the second in Hangzhou (China).