Pacific’s voice in the global arena
Digitalisation has become increasingly prevalent in the education sector worldwide and the experience is no different in the Pacific.
The Pacific Community’s (SPC) Educational Quality and Assessment Programme (EQAP) is mandated by Pacific leaders to strengthen the quality of education across the region. Keeping in line with global trends, EQAP provides sustainable technological solutions to support Pacific education systems in their efforts to boost student outcomes, both at the national and regional levels.
Last month, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) virtually convened the 2023 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Dialogue focusing on the theme “Transformation of education in the digital age”.
This global convening allowed ambassadors from across the globe to share the challenges and opportunities that they are currently managing in their regions.
One of the sessions focussed on the digitalisation of SIDS and how they could leverage digital technologies to respond to their major educational challenges and at the same time provide a platform for sharing experiences in working towards the digitalisation of their processes.
Representing the Pacific among the key speakers in the digitalisation session was EQAP’s Director, Dr Michelle Belisle, sharing some of the region’s experiences with the concept of digitalisation.
A number of positive effects and challenges of the digitalisation process were shared by Dr Belisle. One of the positive effects noted was the increased accessibility of education in the Pacific through digital tools.
“In EQAP’s experience, the South Pacific Form Seven Certificate (SPFSC) programme has become more accessible in recent years through digitalisation. This programme uses the online Moodle learning system and an EQAP-developed suite of software called the Pacific School Information Management System (PacSIMS) to support students and teachers virtually. Through this combination of digital tools, students and teachers were able to continue with the SPFSC programme despite the impacts of the pandemic and other disruptions to education,” Dr Belisle explained.
The Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA) was another example presented at the global arena. PILNA has been administered every three years since 2012.
In 2021, over 40,000 students across 15 countries participated in the main study, a feat made possible through technological tools to train school coordinators and test administrators as well as to remotely manage the coding of papers and data entry of results in each country. This demonstrates the potential of digitalisation to support large-scale assessments and data management in education.
However, despite the benefits of digitalisation, the region’s challenges associated with its implementation in education were also discussed with international ambassadors. One of the main challenges discussed was the unequal access to digital devices and the internet among students.
While digital tools have made learning more accessible, not all students have equal access to them creating a digital divide that can exacerbate existing inequalities in education and limit the potential benefits of digitalisation.
Ensuring digital tools are used effectively and appropriately in the classroom to support student learning was also a concern experienced across the Pacific. This requires not only providing teachers with training and resources but also ensuring that digital tools are integrated into the curriculum in a way that supports student learning.
This calls for students to be digitally literate to ensure that they can effectively use digital tools for learning and beyond.
Demonstrating the resilience of the Pacific, Dr Belisle presented some of the solutions generated by the region that could address the technological issues.
These include providing training and resources for teachers to effectively integrate digital tools into their teaching, ensuring that all students have access to digital devices and the internet, and promoting digital literacy skills among students.
It also involves ensuring that digital tools are aligned with educational goals and effectively integrated into the curriculum to enhance student learning.
Additionally, a blended learning approach is another way to address the challenges of digitalization in education. This approach involves combining online and offline learning which could bridge the digital divide and ensure that all students have access to all learning opportunities. Gamification and other interactive approaches can also assist to engage students and thus provide support for their learning.
In the Pacific context, effective integration of digital tools into education requires a collaborative and multifaceted approach that involves all stakeholders, including teachers, students, parents, and policymakers.
By working together, the region, and ultimately the globe, could address the challenges associated with digitalisation in education and leverage technology to improve the quality of education in the Pacific region and beyond.
Learn more about the SIDS dialogue here.