Education International
Education International

Teachers, Technology, Education for All: A Way Forward

published 9 March 2015 updated 1 April 2015

With the Global Education and Skills Forum underway in Dubai, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen shares his thoughts on how to balance quality teaching and quality education with learning technology.

For more than a year now, Education International’s Unite for Quality Education campaign has made the case that a better education for all is the key to a better, more productive, sustainable and just world.

Our call for the policies and commitment that provide quality teachers and quality tools and environments for teaching and learning has unified the advocacy of our 30 million teachers in more than 170 nations. And it has brought us into dialogue and partnership with dozens of international organizations that believe as we do; quality education for all is a necessary standalone goal for post-2015 sustainable development.

That is why it’s very important for us to join the international community in Dubai, at the Global Education and Skills Forum; to engage in dialogue, explore partnerships, share our vision and share our concerns.

One aspect of that vision is to help our teachers prepare and perform as professionals, to use the best tools and resources available to help students acquire the skills to succeed in a demanding and competitive world economy.

To that end, we are working to provide educators, technology suppliers and governments a roadmap to deploy modern tools for teaching and learning in schools, especially to under-served and disadvantaged areas around the globe. We want to match technology systems and strategies to the needs of teachers and students and explore new collaborative efforts between teacher organizations, school authorities and providers to supply student curriculum and teacher training.

Research shows teachers at home in their own time are researching and developing curriculum and teaching methods to reach their students more effectively and to create learning opportunities to improve their own skills. If a certain lesson works, if a certain strategy engages, teachers want to know and they want to share.

Education International operates under a set of principles related to teaching and learning technology; principles decided by the delegates to our World Congress that we apply to companies and governments and also to our member education unions. As part of a comprehensive ICT effort, governments should “develop national plans for the use and promotion of ICT…in consultation with education unions and education community interests and others with relevant expertise” and “allocate the necessary funds to ensure that every education institution has access to high quality ITC.” Companies need to “recognise the professional integrity and independence of the education institutions and personnel who are affected” and “ensure that the primary purpose of the engagement is to provide support for teaching and learning.”

“Education unions,” the principles state, “should support the use of ICT as an integral part of the provision of quality education for all” and “advocate for the use of ICT in education as a key modern aid to teaching and learning.”

Teachers have been ‘open source’ since the beginning of our profession; borrowing, sharing, and collaborating on teaching and learning tools and materials. We believe technology gives educators the opportunity to take this professional practice to an entirely new level.

Of course we also have concerns.

We know there are organizations in every sector who see education technology as a tool of a different kind; a tool to pry education funding and support away from governments and communities and families and place it in the hands of investors and speculators. If we provide technology tools only to the few, we will be stuck in the past, not advancing into the future.

That is why we are committed to this dialogue – to match new, and existing, hardware and software with the needs of teachers and students, to establish pilot projects engaging cutting-edge technology in teacher training programs and to encourage new collaborative efforts between teacher organizations and school authorities to further the use of information technology in schools.

Many members of Education International have seen and experienced the power of technology in their professional lives. Many more believe these advances hold great promise for their work and the lives of their students. Although the digital divide is a stubborn reality in many parts of the world, the divide is shrinking as ICT devices and methods become more readily available, inexpensive and sophisticated. Join us to make these powerful instruments an important part of quality education for all.