Taking the Qingdao Declaration forward: Seizing digital opportunities in East Africa to lead education transformation

UNESCO held a three-day Colloquium on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Teacher Training in Eastern Africa from 25 to 27 November 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya. The Colloquium defined the principles of the Qingdao Declaration in Eastern Africa, taking into account the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on Education, and SDG 9 on Innovation. The event brought together 81 representatives from five countries: Kenya, Uganda, Seychelles, Mauritius and Tanzania, as well as IGOs, NGOs, foundations and the private sector in the region.

ICT has the potential to transform teaching and learning processes. However, many countries face enormous challenges in providing the necessary justification of their investments in ICT infrastructure and massive roll-outs of teacher training initiatives. Mr Juan Ignacio Ponelli, President of POSITIVO BGH Africa, gave a keynote address highlighting the important role that teachers play in nurturing a future generation of responsible and innovative citizens.

At the International Conference on ICT and Post-2015 Education conference in Qingdao, China, in May 2015, it was reiterated that the successful integration of ICT into teaching and learning requires rethinking the role of teachers, and reforming their preparation and professional development. It calls for promoting a culture of quality in all its aspects: staff support, student support, curricula design, course design, course delivery, strategic planning and development.

Ms Patti Swarts, Director of Programs from Global E-Schools and Communities Initiative (GESCI), recognized the importance of leadership for sustainable ICT integration and education transformation: “We need to start positioning ourselves as leaders to deal with the changes brought by technology advance, not only at global, regional or national level, but also at school level. What we aim at is transforming the practice of teachers in the classroom, not taking them out of the classroom, but working with them in a very deliberative way.”

The UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (ICT-CFT) is a useful framework that outlines the competencies that teachers need to transform their practices, and serves as a set of competencies that teachers need to integrate ICT into their practice and professional development in order to advance the learning process.  In the Eastern Africa region, the framework has been applied in different growth phases, especially technology literacy and knowledge deepening. Content developers have produced a range of materials, including Open Education Resources (OER) to roll out the initiatives, and participants had an opportunity to exchange best practices in its implementation in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

During the Colloquium in Nairobi, participants identified 10 priority areas that should be addressed in recognizing the important role that teachers play in furthering ICT in the education sector. These priorities address leadership and vision, ICT in teacher professional development, curriculum, content, infrastructure, resources, and monitoring and evaluation systems. 

Participants also related these priorities to the East African Community (EAC) eLearning strategy. Mr Aloysius Chebet, Education Officer from the EAC, underlined the importance of focusing on teachers’ role in ICT integration in education in the region: “Our focus should now shift to the teacher. The challenge is capacity building for teachers. EAC has tried its best to develop an ICT strategy that brings ICT integration in our educational institutions, including embracing public private partnership, mounting training in ICT skills and reviewing current ICT training policy to address the gaps.”

Participants of the Colloquium also highlighted the importance of measuring the impact of ICT teacher training initiatives. Following an introduction to various indicators and methodologies from different countries in Africa and Brazil, participants agreed to develop a shared set of indicators that can accompany the numerous ICT and teacher training initiatives in Eastern Africa.

The Colloquium, is a follow-up to the Qingdao Declaration on ICTs and education, where ministers of education from different Member States agreed that ICT could expand teacher training to all teachers. Mr Mohamed Djelid, UNESCO Representative for Eastern Africa, promised the participants UNESCO’s support: “By looking at the best practices in policy formulation in your countries, analysing existing initiatives and monitoring and evaluation systems we aim to formulate a regional strategy for ICT in Education for teacher training, based on the Qingdao Declaration and corresponding to your needs and priorities.”

The event was made possible with the generous support of the Chinese Embassy in Uganda, GESCI, Huawei, Intel, Microsoft, and POSITIVO BGH.  These partnerships are important to effectively cooperate on ICT teacher training initiatives, in accordance with the Qingdao Declaration, which states: “We encourage governments, industry partners and all other education stakeholders to join forces and share resources to create equitable, dynamic, accountable and sustainable learner-centred digital learning ecosystems.”