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Every month, stakeholders such as policymakers, EdTech entrepreneurs, teachers, and parents come together to discuss the intersection of education and technology at the EdTech Mondays Radio Show.

The show, produced by Mastercard Foundation and Shega Media & Technology, has been running since October 2023 and is aired on Fana FM 98.1 and ten affiliated radio stations across the country.

Ethiopia’s ambitious Digital Education Strategy was the topic of discussion during the February episode of the radio show.

This five-year strategy and implementation plan, spearheaded for the 2023–2028 period, aims to tackle long-standing challenges in access, equity, and quality of education through the strategic integration of technology.

The Ministry of Education embarked on the development and launch of the strategy in partnership with UNICEF, ITU, the World Bank, Mastercard Foundation, and other stakeholders.

The document was prepared in consideration of national education sector plans,  strategies like Digital Ethiopia 2025, and the AU’s regional strategy on digital education.

The strategy consists of two pillars, eight building blocks, and nine strategic objectives.

Some of these strategic objectives include:

  • Promoting EdTech innovation and encouraging public-private partnerships (PPPs)
  • Developing curriculum-aligned digital content
  • Advancing digital literacy and skills for students, teachers, and other staff
  • Promoting effective data governance and analytics for education
  • Facilitating research, cooperation, and learning

Thirty-five projects are defined to implement these nine strategic objectives. These include initiatives such as:

  • Connecting 50% of schools and 75% of dormitories with WiFi
  • Developing 10 EdTech applications in partnership with the private sector
  • Providing digital devices/gadgets (such as radios, TVs, tablets, computers, projectors, etc.) to educational institutions
  • Collaborating with the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to remove taxes from digital devices and assistive technologies
  • Facilitating the production of digital devices and assistive technologies within the country through PPPs
  • Collaborating with commercial banks to facilitate loans for teachers and students
  • Developing a localized learning platform to support curricular requirements

This ambitious plan applies to all levels of education in the country, including primary school, secondary school, and tertiary levels, encompassing both technical and vocational education.

Besides its goal, the strategy acknowledges several key hurdles. Limited access to affordable and reliable internet infrastructure, a scarcity of high-quality digital learning content, and a lack of robust data analysis to measure educational outcomes all pose significant roadblocks.

Additionally, both students and teachers often lack the necessary digital literacy skills to fully embrace technology in the classroom.

“The grand educational challenges faced both in Ethiopia and globally include accessibility, fairness, inclusivity, and the production of a quality, entrepreneurial, and skilled workforce,” said Dr. Muluneh Atnafu, during the February episode of Edtech Mondays Radio Show.

The show, produced by the Mastercard Foundation and Shega Media & Technology, serves as a platform for critical conversations surrounding the use of technology for teaching and learning and will delve into the role parents play in the digital learning era.

“The implementation should cater to regular students, adult learners, higher education institutions, and refugee education programs,” Muluneh added.

However, the strategy also acknowledges that technology is just one piece of the puzzle. Comprehensive training programs empower teachers to seamlessly integrate technology into their lessons, ensuring they aren’t just using gadgets but leveraging them to make learning interactive, engaging, and fun.

Dr. Blene Aklilu Betemariam, an Education and Skills Development Advisor, also emphasized the importance of technology in improving access to education on the show. She further highlighted the need for adaptation and the creation of an enabling ecosystem. “The education ecosystem consists of diverse stakeholders, and solutions don’t necessarily come from a single entity. Collaboration is key.” She further emphasized the importance of educational autonomy to support the effective implementation of digital applications.

The Digital Education Strategy outlines a comprehensive approach to integrating technology into classrooms across the country. The Ethiopian Education and Research Network (EthERNet) and the School Network (SchoolNet) are some of the infrastructure projects the strategy is banking on.

EthERNet initially aimed to enhance access to networks and the internet for higher education institutions. The objective is to connect public universities to enhance resource sharing, research, project collaboration, and access to a common infrastructure. Thus, EthERNet has a vision to build a national educational cloud, which would not be possible at the individual institution level.

SchoolNet is another infrastructure initiative to improve the quality of education at secondary levels and expand the reach of school connectivity in the country. It is initiated with the assumption that supplementing face-to-face classroom teaching with content accessed over the internet, offline, or broadcast via VSAT links over television screens, commonly called plasma, can broadly improve the quality, reach, and connectivity of education in the country.

Currently, a total of 1500 schools are connected to SchoolNet. The strategy aims to connect all schools in the general education sector to SchoolNet while also improving EthERNet to provide access to all higher education institutes.

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