Redefining Education: How EdTech Can Help Overcome the Global Learning Crisis

At the intersection of technology and education lies the solution to the global learning crisis. Photo: Ales Nesetril
At the intersection of technology and education lies the solution to the global learning crisis. Photo: Ales Nesetril

By Jeffrey Jian Xu

Embracing a digital transformation in education requires a systematic approach that includes policies and funding, technical infrastructure, and affordable EdTech solutions.

We are facing a global learning crisis and our current system is ill-equipped to provide high-quality learning at scale, leaving hundreds of millions of students unable to acquire even the most basic skills. There is an urgent need to significantly improve education.

According to UNESCO, achieving quality education, the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), depends on the opportunities and challenges posed by technology. In fact, six of ten SDG 4 targets relate to EdTech, the use of technology in education.

But why has it taken so long for the education sector to start benefiting from EdTech?

Rebuilding the system may sound like an immense task, but changes within a system don’t have to be phenomenal to make things click. It is more important to rethink the system from the ground up and address every detail that enables new ways of working.

 The need for change exists because the current education system poses many challenges for digital transformation. One such challenge is a systematic limitation imposed by using standardized testing to assess learners and decide whether they can advance to the next grade.

When every student takes the same test at the same time, it makes learning less personalized and less adaptive to technology, even though personalization of learning and teaching at the right level are key characteristics of high-quality instruction.

To address these challenges, we need to use technology, start with the basics, and try to understand the benefits that different tools would bring in an ideal environment. Even partial use of technology improves learning outcomes. It helps to build a routine and get the basics right.

Digitalization has made technology omnipresent. People need basic digital literacy that allows safe, appropriate, and effective interaction online. To teach these skills, schools need to use technology.

In addition, a plethora of research states that thoughtfully implemented technology achieves positive impacts on learning outcomes.  The learning crisis must be solved, and technology has proved itself useful in achieving learning outcomes at scale.

EdTech is a fast-moving, multibillion-dollar global industry that has the potential to transform education for good. It also helps learners, educators, and others to improve practices. EdTech products include learning management systems, educational apps, massive open online courses, assessment platforms, and quiz tools, and the latest AI-based personalized tutoring and co-pilot tools, to name just a few.

EdTech is a fast-moving, multibillion-dollar global industry that has the potential to transform education for good.

To aid in the adoption of EdTech in the school systems of developing countries in Asia, we have developed a comprehensive guide on how teachers, administrators and policymakers can make use of this fast moving technology.

There have been past attempts to implement new technologies in resource-poor education environments, with the expectation that information and communication technology itself would catalyze much-needed changes in the system.

With this approach, education providers have spent heavily on tools such as devices, while ignoring other areas such as improving connectivity, fine-tuning governance, and developing incentive schemes for teacher professional development including digital training.

The tech-inclusive education approach is more effective. It integrates technology into educational processes and aligns technology use with pedagogical choices and governance involving all stakeholders. This approach addresses all aspects of technology in education, including infrastructure, governance, teacher readiness, student readiness, and the presence of EdTech providers.

All these areas should be addressed simultaneously in a gradual approach appropriate to a low, medium, or high digital readiness stage. The approach will help to improve the efficiency of investments and to avoid weak links that lag and hinder the effective and scalable use of technology.

 To reimagine tech-inclusive education, a systematic approach is needed, starting with policies and funding, technical infrastructure, and affordable EdTech solutions. Educators must be trained to use EdTech and ensure students learn basic literacy and numeracy and have the necessary digital skills to be able to fully benefit from using EdTech.

When the enabling environment is in place, EdTech can be effectively scaled up holistically from one stage to the next and the sustainable transformation of education can begin.

This blog post is based on research for the publications Reimagine Tech-Inclusive Education: Evidence, Practices, and Road Map and Toward Mature Digital Education Ecosystems: The Digital Education Readiness Framework.