EFEE was proud to attend this year’s UNESCO Digital Learning week in Paris, focussing on the overarching theme “Steering Technology for Education”. Below is a full report of the event for your information – enjoy!


4 September 


The inaugural UNESCO Digital Learning Week (DLW) builds on the foundation of UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week and serves as a platform bringing together political leaders, policymakers, researchers from both public and private sector, to shape the norms through dialogue, exchange of knowledge and policy. During the event, there were 200 speakers from 50 countries, including 15 ministries and more than 1000 participants. 

The first day kickstarted with the introduction to DLW by Ms. Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO, who presented three different perspectives on education. As the global disruption arrived with the Covid-19 pandemic, where 1.6 billion students were out of school and digital platforms proved their relevance. At the same time, society started to think about how it can work and learn better from this experience. Currently, new technology obliges us to understand what is happening inside and outside of the classroom. In the future, four UNESCO principles for digital education will be implemented in every school across the globe – inclusion, equity, equality, and accessibility – while maintaining the rules of 3 Cs connectivity, content, and capacity

Following Ms. Giannini’s opening, a presentation and a panel discussion about UNESCO-UNICEF Gateways to Public Digital Learning Initiative took place. One of the panellists, Mr. Leonardo Garnier, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Transforming Education Summit, stressed that action is now more important than ever as education remains a struggle despite the efforts. Inappropriate working conditions, lack of effective teaching time per student, lack of student-centered approach and the fact that nowadays, education is mainly about obedience and following, but not learning – to name a few reasons. It was also highlighted that the resources must be used critically, and digital content should be aligned with the needs and practices because technology should and can be used as a catalyst to trigger more efficient learning. 

Success can be achieved through digital technology which could liberate teachers from administrative monotony and would encourage students to do more entertaining activities. The Gateways Initiative was already joined by 7 countries: Singapore, Uruguay, Mongolia, Bulgaria, Egypt, Finland, and Jordan. This initiative offers a web portal and dashboard, gathers the best practices, and works with many stakeholders to create accessible and inclusive platforms for all learners worldwide. It is of high relevance to Allow, facilitate and encourage the resources initiative to make education a public good.

The afternoon breakout session on “Digital learning platforms to support teachers and pedagogical innovation” gathered different practical examples from Africa, Latin America (CREA portal), Georgia (el.ge platform), Finland, Uganda (Kolibri software) and Canada. The distance learning platforms in those regions were a success which positively contributed to the digital transformation. The key takeaways from the session are the relevance of cross-sectoral networks and empowerment of education and digitalization through innovative resources that should be used to promote learning. 

The second breakout session covered the topic of “Safeguarding freedom of expression and access to information in the governance of digital platforms.” The speakers touched upon the intersectional approach to handle safety and digital freedom, digital vulnerabilities, cultural diversity, and human rights impact assessment. It was agreed that the topic is vast and should be tackled from different angles, especially to make sure that children are engaged in a meaningful way in the process of learning and exploring. The last panel discussion of the day revolved around “Ensuring platforms are open, public and secure spaces for learning.”, during which relevance of standardisation, normalisation and IT security infrastructure were discussed. Quote of the day was said by Mr Daniel Burgos, UNESCO Chair on e-Learning, “Better learning – better teaching.” After the official part, the Global Digital Library was launched, and guests enjoyed the cocktail reception. 


5 September 


The official opening ceremony took place on the second day of the Digital Learning Week, where a video message was provided by Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Secretary-General at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). In her speech, she put an emphasis on the increasing demand for digital skills and education, which are a core of the Sustainable Development Goal #4 “Eliminate all discrimination in education.” While still too many schools remain unconnected, a targeted multi-stakeholder approach, including the private sector, is urgently needed. 

Following her words, a panel discussion on “Steering technology for education in 20230 and beyond” began. The speakers presented diverse projects, in which digital platform infrastructures were showcased, and highlighted that platform infrastructure requires to take different forms based on the educational and societal context. Therefore, the important need to be very specific when developing a digital platform. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that engaging teachers will help to ensure that pedagogy remains at the centre of education. Additionally, the topic of data was brought up in the context of its sensitivity. H.E. Ms. Anna-Maja Henriksson, Minister of Education in Finland, said that “Data regarding children is especially sensitive and need to be dealt with great care by the service providers.” A challenge is a

struggle with defining who owns and controls the access to data. Researchers are working intensively to provide the tools which will help teachers understand what is behind the platform. Senegalese Minister of Education, H.E. Mr. Cheikh Oumar Anne stressed the improvements in the Senegalese education system, which currently focuses on maths, technology, and entrepreneurship, and for which the basis is to provide equal access to technology. These insights were echoed by Chinese Vice-Minister of Education, Mr. Jie Chen, who spoke about the Chinese digital platform that promotes equity and high-quality resources to leverage the full and effective implementation of national curriculum standards. In addition, it collaborates with many prestigious institutions and provides teachers with robust resources and tools. 

After lunch, one of the breakout sessions was about “Future of digital education”, where challenges and opportunities were described. The practical example of how the “Rethinking Traditional Schools in the Age of AI and Digital Learning” went, was provided by Mr. Chris Dede, Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. The insight from different regions of the world, in which the Digital School has inaugurated 66 new digital learning centres in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and scaled up the education system in this country. Notwithstanding, the importance of impact measurement and evaluation was stressed by Mr. Tim Unwin, Emeritus Professor of Geography at Royal Holloway. His main message was that there is a pressing need to establish more rigorous baseline studies, financial models, and flawless approaches to M&E. 

The second plenary session was an official launch of a UNESCO publication “An EdTech tragedy? Educational technologies and school closures in the time of COVID-19” by Mr. Mark West, UNESCO Project Officer. The book is an analysis and a critique on what happened to education during the school closures. It covers (mis)use, hopes, and promises of digital education and its consequences. The day finished with the country’s perspective from H.E. Mr Yaw Osei Adutwum, Minister of Education in Ghana and H.E. Mr Kanwar Pal, Minister of School Education of the Government of Haryana in India. They both stressed that the digital landscape needs to be navigated responsibly and that digital learning needs to be content and context relevant. Afterward, the participants were welcomed at the cocktail reception. 

  • For more details about the UNESCO Digital Learning Week, you can visit this website.



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