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publication December 2, 2020

Reimagining Human Connections: Technology and Innovation in Education at the World Bank


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  • Education technology — or ‘EdTech’, the use of hardware, software, digital content, data, and information systems in education — supports and enriches teaching and learning and improves education management and delivery.
  • EdTech can create new connections between teachers, students, parents, and broader communities to create learning networks. Investments in EdTech can make education systems more resilient to future shocks and help reform and reimagine the way education is delivered.
  • The World Bank supports the appropriate, cost-effective use of EdTech at all levels of education and supports countries in expanding access and improving quality, both inside and out of the classroom – so that education reaches all students.
  • Education is, at its heart, about human connections — between students, teachers, parents, caregivers, principals, and broader communities.
  • Education policies and initiatives that utilize EdTech should embrace an inter-related set of five principles to maximize human engagement. 
  • The use of EdTech should be guided by a clear purpose and focus on educational objectives; reach all learners; empower teachers; engage an ecosystem of partners; and rigorously and routinely use data to learn what strategies, policies and programs are effective to maximize student learning.

The World Bank advocates attention to five key principles when education systems invest in EdTech.

Principle 1: Ask Why
EdTech policies and projects need to be developed with a clear purpose, strategy and vision of the desired educational change.

Principle 2: Design and Act at Scale, For All
The design of EdTech initiatives should be flexible and user-centered, with an emphasis on equity and inclusion, in order to realize scale and sustainability for all.

Principle 3: Empower Teachers
Technology should enhance teacher engagement with students through improved access to content, data and networks, helping teachers better support student learning.

Principle 4: Engage the Ecosystem
Education systems should take a whole-of-government and multi-stakeholder approach to engage a broad set of actors to support student learning.

Principle 5: Be Data-Driven
Evidence-based decision making within cultures of learning and experimentation, enabled by EdTech, leads to more impactful, responsible and equitable uses of data.

The World Bank works to discover evidence-based technology solutions in education; deploy solutions, at the pilot level and at scale; and diffuse this knowledge widely across policy makers and support capacity development to better use this new knowledge.

Discover: Identifying innovations and building the evidence base for EdTech

Deploy: Projects, pilots and digital global public goods

Diffuse: Capacity building networks and partnerships

(note: This publication is often referred to as the 'World Bank edtech approach paper')