IT and EdTech have a key role to play in education around the world

Educational technology (EdTech) can be hugely influential in changing for the better how teachers teach and students learn, and I am optimistic it can solve some of the problems of access to education that we experience worldwide.

In the UK, we have seen the use of EdTech increase steadily over the past two decades. Pupils now spend over 50% of their time in schools exposed to ICT, according to the latest research conducted by my organisation, the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).

BESA’s research found that both management systems and content solutions are now widely used in more than 90% of UK schools. That can be in the form of an assessment system to support the teacher, an interactive whiteboard to make the lesson more interactive, a parental communications solution to engage with the children’s families, or an app to help the students learn at their rhythm and receive personalised feedback.

The EdTech success is due, in part, to the progress in accessibility made in the last few years. Schools have invested in devices to ensure children are in best conditions to learn, and in improving access to internet and wi-fi. But we also found, at the cost of some early implementation challenges in the early 2000s that for EdTech to be successful in the classroom teachers need to receive supportive and well targeted training and guidance on how to use new technologies.

With the freedom to choose their resources, schools in the UK have been able to try and test what works best in their context. This has helped prove the efficacy of EdTech, and schools are the most valued bodies when it comes to EdTech recommendations – as we found out in a research on EdTech in schools last June.

An evidence base of UK EdTech is now being developed through the EDUCATE project, a ground-breaking British project bringing together entrepreneurs and innovators, with academics, researchers and educators, to deliver world-class EdTech products and services.

Based at University College London’s Institute of Education the EDUCATE project will help UK EdTech start-ups learn the skills of how to carry out academic quality research into the effectiveness and impact of their products on learning outcomes in order to help a virtuous circle improving the already high standards of British EdTech products and services.

British EdTech companies already enjoy a close and positive relationship with Governments, policy-makers and school leaders throughout the GCC and wider Middle East region. Indeed, just last month, I was proud to lead a record-breaking delegation of almost 100 UK education companies to GESS Dubai, the largest education event in the Middle East, supported by the UAE government and Ministry of Education.

At GESS Dubai I was honoured to hear the UAE Minister of Education Minister HE Hussain bin Ibrahim Al-Hammadi give the opening address at the conference and outline his ambitious plans for educational technology, and the use of artificial intelligence and skills to ensure that innovation and creativity are the backbone of the education process in the UAE. UK education companies will be working with schools and colleges throughout the UAE to support and drive forward the Government’s education policy in this area over the coming months and years.

Last week I was also honoured to meet HE Dr Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al-Issa, the Minister of Education for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and learn more about the exciting education partnership announced by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, His Royal Highness, Mohammed bin Salman, during his state visit to London. The new education partnership which will see UK education experts help the Saudi education system implement their ambitious domestic reform programme, increasing levels of female participation and boosting inclusivity.

These examples therefore show that EdTech is therefore becoming an integral component part in classrooms across the region. It also has a huge potential to contribute to solving the education crisis of refugees around the world, by setting up virtual classrooms or using apps to support children through their education.

If the applications of EdTech are plentiful, however, we must be careful not to cross the line and encourage the use of technology in the classroom for the sake of it only. Instead, the power of EdTech to profoundly change the way we teach and learn needs to be harnessed for the benefit of the learners, with educational aims and evidence at the forefront of every learning intervention.


This was originally published on EdArabia, view it here.