Unicef Policy Brief on the challenge of providing digital education tools to all children – a response from sQuid
Unicef’s recent Policy Brief raised further awareness on the necessity and cost of providing digital education for all children. As well as quantifying the costs associated with electricity, internet access and devices, this thought-provoking paper identifies the importance of engagement by and with young people. In this regard, the reader might conclude that once the technical assets are available, adoption is relatively straightforward and relatively low cost.
As this important digital education dialogue continues, with the ultimate objective being large scale implementation, effective adoption strategies will be critical. Drawing on our 7-year experience with the iMlango programme in Kenya, where sQuid was the largest implementation partner and the co-ordinator of the Literacy component of that edtech initiative, we aim to help ensure better understanding of the challenges of digital programme implementation at the school level. iMlango focused on introducing edtech into marginalised, mainly rural schools, and understanding this context is vital if digital learning is to be accessible for all.
Implementation of digital education is often focused on the ‘hardware’ – electricity supply, internet access, and devices. Without these, there can be no digital education programme, however success only comes with effective implementation at the school level, taking into consideration how to introduce the digital tools, how to ensure they are properly supported and used by teachers, and how to measure progress. In our experience, the implementation strategy and supporting actions determine the success of digital programme adoption.
In our recent white paper, we outlined some of the key lessons we learned in approaching and managing a comparatively large-scale implementation across 200 schools. Our paper highlights the opportunity of the ‘digital white space’ in education, opening up the opportunity to explore what works and to mobilise quickly around those tools that show greatest promise. In our view, digital education should leverage the fast flow of new online thinking and teaching and learning aids, and we strongly advocate that implementers are given a voice to help improve alignment between the ‘hardware providers’ and the IT and content/syllabus departments within ministries of education.
We hope to add to the emerging dialogue, and that our guidelines and lessons learned from our Kenya programme will help in the formulation of effective programmes that will ensure digital education tools really deliver the impact that is needed.
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