Following the recent improvement and widespread of mobile broadband networks in Myanmar, schools, especially those in semi-urban areas, will not have to wait for years to be provided with the benefits of Internet connectivity and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The technology will enable access to 21st century education content and applications, thanks to the “Empowering Women and Girls through Mobile Technology in Myanmar” project, which is the first-of-its-kind ICT for Education project in Myanmar between UNESCO, Ericsson and the Ministry of Education.
This ICT for education project, as part of the Connect To Learn initiative in Myanmar launched by Ericsson, the UK Department of International Development (DFID) and other project partners including UNESCO, will not only serve to promote mobile technology for learning but also serve as another important milestone for the Ministry of Education in the education reform process in Myanmar. This project aims to improve learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy of approximately 21,000 Grades 8 to 11 students, half of whom are considered to be marginalized girls in the country. Up to 600 scholarships will also be provided by the project partners to girls to help them stay in school and complete their secondary education. Ericsson, as a donor, provides UNESCO with funding of about USD 1.4 million for this ICT for education project.
The coalition announced on 29 June 2015 the launch of the project in its first phase to connect 17 selected schools in Mandalay Region to mobile broadband networks so that students can experience 21st century education. These schools will be provided with ICT solutions such as laptop computers, tablet computers and other ICT peripherals delivered in tandem with a comprehensive in-service teacher professional development programme to enable teachers to best utilize this technology in the classroom to enhance teaching quality. The project also includes an English language programme and life skills programme using mobile technology to develop English language and life skills, particularly for girls, as a means of empowerment and a pathway to increased secondary school retention. In the second phase, the project will expand to cover 14 more schools in Bago Region and Mon State.
Sardar Umar Alam, Head of UNESCO Yangon, said, “According to the recently released nationwide census report, 33 percent of households in Myanmar have mobile phones and many households use mobile phones to access the Internet. This is a good opportunity to explore the use of the state-of-the-art mobile technology in improving quality of education. This project can improve ICT literacy of teachers and provide a blueprint for the integration of ICT and education in schools in Myanmar.”
Jan Wassenius, Ericsson Head of Myanmar, said, “Education is essential to end poverty. Many young people, particularly girls in developing countries continue to lack access to secondary education. Connect To Learn is a public-private partnership that involves the use of ICT solutions to promote universal access to a quality secondary education. We hope that Ericsson, together with its partners, will be able to further enhance access to education in Myanmar through the use of ICT in the classroom.”
UNESCO is the lead partner for coordination with the Ministry of Education as well as the implementing partner for the three main components in this project which focus on utilizing mobile broadband technology to provide (1) teacher professional development programme, including ICT-pedagogy integration training and support to teachers; (2) English language programme, including the development and delivery of practical English learning content using mobile technology; and (3) life skills programme, including the development and delivery of relevant life skills learning content using mobile technology.
In addition to UNESCO, a number of partners are involved in the implementation of the Connect To Learn project in Myanmar. These partners include UK Department for International Development (DFID) providing project funding under the Girls’ Education Challenge, Ericsson being a donor and overall programme and technology lead and Earth Institute at Columbia University managing the student stipend and school grants programme as well as conducting implementation research at the schools. Finja Five, an innovative start-up at Lund University in Sweden, will provide child-friendly computing solutions while EduEval Educational Consultancy will conduct monitoring and evaluation. Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ will also provide funding and project management. Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) is supporting network roll-out and will provide SIM cards for the schools.
The project also receives support from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Myanmar.