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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

SI Minister of Education and Pacific colleagues talk ICT for expanding education to rural areas

Dr Derek Sikua, Minister of Education joined Education Ministers from 15 other Pacific Island Forum Memeber States and other high level policy makers in Fiji yesterday to focus on the challenges facing education policy makers when looking at the role of ICT in expanding educational opportunities.

They recognised the potential of ICT for enhancing the quality of learning and teaching for students and their teachers, sustaining lifelong learning, improving policy planning and management and narrowing the ‘digital divide’. They agreed, amongst others, that the key priorities for using ICT should be to improve delivery of quality education to remote rural school communities, provide in service training opportunities for their teachers, regularly collect school survey data from them and to provide access to better learning materials.

Ministers were reminded that integrating ICTs into educational systems and activities can be problematic if not planned carefully and can lead to ineffective and wasteful expenditure. On the other hand if a set of analytical and planning tools were systematically used they would encourage careful policy making and planning.

The Ministers were introduced to a prototype version of an ICT-in-Education Toolkit that has been developed by UNESCO and its partners to assist education policy makers, planners and practitioners in a systematic process of planning ICT use to meet educational goals and targets efficiently and effectively.

The Toolkit provides planners and education managers with 6 toolboxes which takes them through the essential stages of identifying educational areas where ICT could make an impact and then the important planning and implementation steps needed to ensure that the investment in ICT is effective and is sustainable.

Participants were shown how the Toolkit worked and were reminded that the Toolkit was only an instrument to improve decision making, planning and implementation and would not replace the need for a clear ICT in education policy. This week two Solomon Islanders are attending a 5 day workshop in Fiji on how to use the Toolkit.

Afterwards Dr Sikua commented “that the Solomon Islands Ministry of Education was establishing 9 distance learning centres in community high schools – one in each province – equipped with high speed internet via a direct satellite connection, laptop computers and printers and all powered by solar panels. The first centre in Pamua, Makira Province was connected 2 weeks ago and will provide a wide range of communications and learning resources to the local community. I am proud that we now have the first remote, rural community learning centre served by a high speed internet connection in a Pacific Island state. This ‘first’ will provide all of us with a model to learn from and I look forward to sharing our experience of using ICT to deliver learning opportunities to remote rural communities with my fellow Ministers”.

Source: PF Net

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