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Do not standardise interventions for digital learning, experts advise

The two-day Summit is designed to inspire stakeholders to apply their wealth of knowledge and experiences

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Jenniter Cotter-Otieno, Founder and CEO, EdTech East Africa, addressing delegates

Education technology experts from East Africa are meeting in Nairobi to discuss ways of promoting digital learning in schools in the region, including Kenya.

Speakers and participants at the two-day Kenya Edtech Summit 2023, which opened September 20th, said despite the strides being in the area, there were still numerous gaps to be filled to expand digital learning.

The digital technology innovators, software developers, engineers, among others, are meeting to exchange knowledge on how to address these challenges that impede access to digital learning tools and technologies.

“We are meeting to share ideas and explore ways of how to make learning globally competitive; how to integrate information technology in schools and the policies to strengthen or establish to make digital education more sustainable in line with global goals,” said Lydia Mureithi, Deputy Director of the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMESTEA).

Giving an overview of the summit, now in its second year, Jennifer Cotter-Otieno, Founder and CEO, EdTech East Africa, organiser of the Summit, said: “There is no one way to make it work. It is going to take all of us together with the community to build solutions that are sustainable and effective to ensure no one is left behind.”

Cotter-Otieno emphasised the need for necessary interventions which must embrace inclusivity and equity, posing: “How do we ensure our interventions are accessible and affordable, and are built to respond to the needs of all the learners?”

The 2023 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, which was cited at the event, stresses the same, saying teachers and learners must be at the centre of these interventions.

“Many students do not have much chance to practise with digital technology in schools; teachers often feel unprepared and lack confidence teaching with technology,” states the report in part.

It further points out that only half of countries have standards for developing teacher ICT skills. The report highlights that while 5% of ransomware attacks target education, few teacher training programmes cover cybersecurity.

Addressing the Summit remotely while discussing the report, Manos Antoninis, the Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report, advised on the need to have clear evidence to inform decisions that will upscale the interventions around making digital learning accessible to all. “With this in place, we have to look forward to establish plans that support our vision for the future and build sustainability”.

The summit participants emphasised the importance of coming up with interventions that are specific to a particular context.

“Most interventions are a one-size-fits-all. Do not standardise interventions; don’t assume what works in one region will work for the other. We have to take into consideration the different needs of learners and teachers in the various areas so that we meet the needs of everyone,” said Anne Kibara, a teacher at Ngundu Primary and Junior School in the outskirts of Nairobi.

Kibara called for regular training of more teachers in schools so that they can pass the skills to more learners. “In most cases, you find that one teacher is taught, and is expected to teach other teachers and students. This cannot achieve better outcomes,” she said.

The two-day Summit is designed to inspire stakeholders to apply their wealth of knowledge and experiences to forge a collective way forward for Kenya and East Africa at large, in respect of education technology.

It builds on the fact that Kenya stands at the forefront of digital revolution in education in East Africa.

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