ICT in education, a topic that seemed largely unfeasible for Myanmar just a few years ago when less than 2% of the population had access to internet, is now claiming a central place in discussions on the future of teacher education reforms.
Given the 300% increase in mobile subscriptions in the last one year alone, UNESCO is now working with the Myanmar Ministry of Education (MoE) to leverage the radical growth in access to ICT to benefit teacher education through the “Strengthening Pre-service Teacher Education in Myanmar” (STEM) project, which is supported by the Australian government.
While Education Colleges (ECs) in Myanmar have been historically under resourced, through STEM, there is growing recognition of the important role ECs play in promoting teacher quality as the providers of pre-service training for the majority of Myanmar’s government teacher workforce, last year graduating over 13,000 new teachers into basic education classrooms around the country.
Since early 2015, UNESCO, in collaboration with the MoE, has been implementing a multi-step programme of support for ICT development in Myanmar’s ECs, including the conduct of an in-depth assessment, the development of a five-year Framework for upgrading ICT capacity in ECs, and the facilitation of training programmes for teacher educators.
Based on UNESCO’s recommendations, one key action point for implementing the Framework for ICT development in ECs is to ensure there are enough ICT in education-qualified teacher educators to support the integration of ICT into pre-service programmes.
Taking immediate policy action on this recommendation, the MoE has now recruited three new ICT teacher educators per EC – 65 new recruits in total – underscoring the centrality of ICT-savvy teacher educators to the effective use of ICT for teaching and learning in ECs.
Building on earlier pilot trainings, as a first phase of training the new ICT teacher educators, UNESCO developed customized training modules, designed to bring together participants’ existing ICT technical skills with key learning theories and strategies, and, in November 2015, facilitated intensive five-day programmes in Mandalay and Yangon for the new recruits.
Utilizing a learning-by-doing approach, the teacher educators completed a series of interactive modules which can, in turn, be used with their student teachers to expand upon the current EC ICT course, which is focused mainly on office productivity software, through project-based learning introducing ICT in- and for- education.
“The idea that learning about technology can be paired successfully with learning about teaching was a new and exciting idea for many participants,” observed UNESCO facilitator and ICT in teacher education expert, Ms. Susan Atkins.
As one current ICT teacher educator, who works at an EC in Lower Myanmar, noted, “I will be able to take the ICT activities from this training to make my teaching more interactive, engaging, and relevant for the student teachers.”
Several participants also mentioned that the training had given them a new sense of responsibility and motivation to use ICT in education as an entry point for EC reforms. As one ICT teacher educator stated, “I am now aware that my role is very important for supporting student teachers to be able to learn and teach effectively and for building human resource capacity in the country.”
Participants noted that they had learned how to better use the ICT textbook to support the learning of student teachers and how to make lesson plans for their teaching.
“This is a talented group of new teacher educators,” reflected Ms. Atkins, “They are capable ICT technicians who were able to quickly catch on to ideas of teaching and learning. It is easy to envision them playing an integral role in connecting their respective ECs with quality learning resources and new teaching strategies.”
UNESCO will follow-up with the new ICT teacher educators as they begin their teaching assignments with a view to providing on-going support and training for ICT course development, the establishment of ICT departments, the management of EC ICT infrastructure, and the training of other teacher educators in ICT for teaching and learning.
With ICT in education as a strategic focus of its country programming, UNESCO is committed to supporting Myanmar as it digitally leapfrogs into the world of smartphones and internet access, aiming for 70 – 80 per cent mobile penetration rates in 2016 in line with its Southeast Asian neighbours, with new opportunities for improving education access and quality through ICT.