Learning from Becta

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an axe falls ... where will the chips land? | image attribution at bottomThe recent news that Becta, the UK's ICT/education agency, is to be abolished later this year has been met with shock in many quarters outside the UK. 

(I don't pretend to know how this has been understood within the UK itself, and I have no comment on internal political matters in the UK that led to this action. I don't confess to any special insight or expertise in this area ... but even if I did, it would not be my place to comment on them in a World Bank blog.  Others are of course more free to do so.)

Many developing countries have looked to Becta as a general touchstone for leading thought and practice related to the use of ICTs in education. This is especially the case with regard to the research and  huge number of influential publications that have been put out by Becta over the years, which are widely consumed and cited by academics, government officials and consultants active around the world in planning and implementing ICT-related initiatives in formal education systems.

Some of the examples of Becta publications (caution: some links to PDFs):

There is much much more. The list is long!

If you haven't done so lately (and especially if you have never done so before!), you may wish to spend some time in the coming weeks perusing the cache of documents on the Becta site whenever you are taking a short break from all of the soccer/football action in South Africa.

For what it's worth, I am currently downloading Becta publications for local storage and access, mindful that transitions are often rather messy.  I don't tend to believe, as some people say, that once something is published on the Internet, it is available forever.  And even if/where this is true (!), finding resources that have disappeared from one site, only to be reborn on another, can in my experience be rather problemmatic. (The publications from Dfid's ICT/education program in Africa, Imfundo, for example, were off-line for awhile due to an internal reorganization -- you can now find them here). 

While Becta as an organization itself may not last much longer, it is hard to imagine that many of the functions Becta currently performs will not be taken over by other groups and institutions.  In addition to its vast knowledgebase, which hopefully will continue to be accessible on the web for many years to come (emphasis added for any UK visitors to this blog who might have a say in such decisions!), I would expect that many of the people who have played key roles in Becta will assume advisory and consulting positions in many other places, helping to share knowledge and lessons learned far beyond British shores, as interest and investments in ICT/education are (for better and for worse) exploding in other parts of the world. This is especially true for developing countries, where many national ICT/education agencies are just now being developed.  Voices of experience from the U.K. -- about what to do, and perhaps just as importantly, what not to do -- will no doubt be well heard and considered in many such places.   In a roundabout way, this upcoming exchange of knowledge and expertise may eventually, I imagine, swing back to help enrich the UK's own approach to using ICTs in the education sector. 

If you are looking for (positive) ICT/education-related news out of Europe:

  • The European Schoolnet has just released the latest batch of 15 country reports as part of its INSIGHT project documenting technology use in education across Europe.

Please note: The imagine used at the top of this blog post ("an axe falls ... where will the chips land?") comes
from b.gliwa via Wikimedia Commons and is used according to the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

Correction: The report Learning Literacies in a Digital Age was erroneously listed as a Becta publication in an earlier draft of this blog entry.  This excellent report was in fact produced by JISC, a UK organization that explores ICT-related  issues at the tertiary education level.


Michael Trucano

Visiting Fellow, Brookings, and Global Lead for Innovation in Education, World Bank

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