The 7th Education International (EI) World Congress meeting in Ottawa, Canada, from 21nd to 26th July 2015, adopts the addendum to section/paragraphs 45 – 48, on the role of education unions in the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in education, of the Education Policy Paper, ‘ Building the Future through Quality Education’, which was adopted by the EI 6th World Congress in 2011.
This addendum to the Education Policy Paper seeks to expand and clarify EI’s policy position and the role of unions in the use of ICT in education.
1. Information and communication technologies can be an important tool to improve teaching and learning. Interactive education software, open access digital libraries, and cheaper and more intuitive technology may facilitate new forms of interaction between students, teachers, education personnel and the community and enhance access to, and the quality of, education. ICT must be used as a tool to improve teaching and learning and make schools more effective.
2. EI rejects the notion that ICT can be used to address the lack of education funding due to the austerity measures as a result of the financial crisis. Education funding must be restored and expanded in order for ICT to play its proper role of supporting the goals of a fully and appropriately funded public education.
3. However, risks associated with the use of ICT such as the promotion of hatred, child pornography, cyberbullying, and the use of surveillance technologies, among others, must be highlighted and such abuses avoided to ensure the safety and well-being of all education personnel and students.
4. While EI believes that education may be enriched by integrating ICT into traditional educational activities, ICT can never replace the relationship and interaction between teacher and learner which is crucial to the learning and development process. Teachers remain central to the learning process, and introducing new technologies alone will not transform the teaching and learning process.
5. ICT must be used in education institutions under the supervision of qualified well-trained professionals with the expertise in pedagogy and in education to ensure that their impact does not damage or undermine the learning process or the development of learners.
6. Successful use and integration of ICT to deliver quality education to students depends largely on highly-qualified and motivated teachers, the availability of sufficient quality ICT tools and quality teaching and learning environments. Therefore, appropriate and thoughtfully designed teacher training programmes which foster collaboration among education professionals and well-resourced teaching and learning environments are crucial for the successful use of ICT in education and the successful implementation of ICT programmes.
7. ICT policies and plans should be developed with the full participation of teachers, education support personnel and their representative organisations. Educators must be involved every step of the way in the design and development of appropriate ICT policies for education purposes.
8. Governments should narrow the digital divide between rich and poor countries by ensuring the provision of ICT infrastructure, hardware and software, including Internet connectivity throughout every country, including in rural and remote areas.
9. While EI welcomes the use of ICTs in delivering quality education, including through appropriately designed distance education programmes, virtual schools and universities should be licenced and monitored to ensure quality. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) should be accredited and monitored for quality assurance purposes.
10. EI strongly opposes any effort to use ICT to make education, either in part or whole, a commodity to be sold for profit. ICT companies must operate in ways that enhance free public education for all. ICT companies must not develop systems that are meant to replace education systems for power or profit. Education services must not be part of any trade agreements that would in any way make education an international commodity and not a sovereign right in any country.
11. Where commercial ICT companies are engaged by governments or national education or school authorities to contribute to the provision of ICT in education or become voluntarily involved in such provision, that engagement should be subject to agreements based on terms agreed with education unions and rooted in best educational practice.
12. When engaging ICT companies, corporations or foundations to support the use of ICT in education, EI and education unions should ensure that education programmes are: a) inclusive, b) aimed at improving access to and the quality of education, c) support good pedagogical practice, d) do not worsen teachers’ working conditions or employment security e) have a teachers’ professional development component, and f) respect national curricula.
Measures which should be taken in order to promote and ensure the appropriate use of ICT in education include the following:
1. EI will build member organisations’ capacity to advocate for inclusive and appropriate ICT policies at national level, and the capacity of union leaders and members to use ICT to enhance their union and education work, especially in relation to teaching and learning, and organising and online support systems for unions.
2. EI and its member organisations will develop and implement strategies to combat any forms of abuse with special emphasis on protecting students, teachers and education support personnel from cyberbullying and becoming targets for malicious content.
3. EI and education unions should undertake research into the use (and abuses) of ICT in education, including into criteria for evaluation of the quality of distance education programmes and Massive Open Online Courses.
4. Education unions should urge governments to develop national policies and plans for the use and promotion of ICT in education, in consultation with education unions.
5. Education unions should impress upon governments the necessity to allocate funds to ensure that every education institution has access to high quality ICT, both hardware and software, irrespective of where it is situated.
6. Education unions should encourage governments to allocate the necessary funds to provide training and continuous professional development in the use of ICT for teachers and other education professionals.
7. Education unions should advocate for the appropriate use of ICT in education as a key modern aid to teaching and learning and for free access to the appropriate high quality technology and to the internet for all teachers and learners, support professionals and leaders in education.
8. Education unions should monitor the implementation of any agreements entered into by governments, national education or school authorities for the provision of ICT by commercial companies and ensure that these agreements adhere to the principles enunciated above.