Introducing the Global Declaration on Connectivity for Education at the Global Education Summit
On 27 July 2021, in the framework of the Global Education Summit, UNESCO and Dubai Cares organized a side event “Towards a Global Declaration on Connectivity for Education”, highlighting major elements of the forthcoming Global Declaration on Connectivity for Education.
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The session, moderated by Sobhi Tawil (UNESCO Director of Future of Learning and Innovation) featured participation of several leaders working to advance connectivity for education: Liesbet Steer (Director of the Education Commission), Sonia Jorge (Executive Director of the Alliance for Affordable Internet), and Alex Wong (ITU Chief of Special Initiatives and Focal point for the Giga Initiative).
The discussion explored how the Global Declaration on Connectivity for Education can support countries in leveraging connectivity and technology to make education more inclusive, equitable and of higher quality. Participants also voiced ideas about how to operationalize the Declaration principles in countries at different levels of development.
In opening the session, Sobhi Tawil, Director of the Division for The Future of Learning and Innovation, UNESCO, introduced purpose of the Global Declaration and its three key principles:
Principle 1: Center the most marginalized
Principle 2: Expand investments in free and high-quality digital education content
Principle 3: The digital transformation of education requires pedagogical transformation
Mr. Tawil also provided an overview of the research and inclusive consultation process used to develop the Declaration. He explained that work on the Declaration has been steered by an international multistakeholder Advisory Group that includes international experts in the fields of education and connectivity and includes representatives from the UN system, academia, civil society and private sector.
Sonia Jorge, Executive Director of the Alliance for Affordable Internet who is a also member of the Advisory Group for the Declaration, outlined that education is a foundation for our societies and that securing meaningful connectivity will allow learners to acquire important digital skills, enabling them to safely and productively navigate digital spaces and use these spaces to make positive contributions to society.
Liesbet Steer, Director of the Education Commission, emphasized the importance of both digital innovation and maintaining human-centered approaches for education. She further underlined the need for expanded financing, including through innovative financial instruments, as well as greater coordination and collaboration between stakeholders working to make connected learning and education more universal.
Alex Wong of ITU and the Chief of Special Initiatives and Focal point for the Giga Initiative emphasized the importance of initiatives and efforts to close digital divides and ensure that connectivity reaches all learners. He provided an overview of work Giga has done to both map connectivity in schools and to build partnerships to bring connectivity to schools. He mentioned that education should be both a cause and a means to move the world closer to universal connectivity.
Saeed Alismaily, a Senior Programs Officer at Dubai Cares, emphasized that connectivity has played a crucial role in education since the beginning of the pandemic and the school closures that accompanied the crisis. He highlighted the importance of partnerships and encouraged continuous dialogue and engagement of stakeholders in the build-up to the launch of the Declaration in December at the RewirEd Summit. He further stressed the necessity of operationalizing the principles and commitments in the Declaration.
Throughout discussion, speakers also underlined the importance of whole-child approach and pointed that the technology should serve learners and educators and respond to their needs. Panelists emphasized the necessity of free, quality and accessible content that will be relevant to all, including the most marginalized students. The discussion also highlighted the role the Declaration can play to create a joint framework for engagement, advocacy, and collective coordinated action.
At the end of the session, speakers reflected on the relationship between connectivity and examinations. UNESCO touched upon various strategies used to block connectivity for purposes of examination—ranging from countrywide Internet shutdown to the use of remote proctoring software— and pointed to the need to reconcile a global push for universal connectivity for education with wholesale prohibitions on connectivity for the purposes of assessing educational achievement during formal examinations.
The Global Declaration on Connectivity for Education is developed through a partnership between UNESCO and Dubai Cares and guided by an international multistakeholder Advisory Group bringing together international expertise in the fields of education and connectivity from the UN system, academia, civil society and private sector. The Declaration will be launched at the RewirEd Summit in Dubai in December 2021.