Tim Unwin
Mark Weber
Meaghan Brugha
David Hollow
Publication Date
January 1, 2017

"This report addresses the future of basic education, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) use in deprived locations, and the use of ICTs in primary school learning in 2020 and 2025, especially in deprived contexts."

This report from Save the Children draws on existing research evidence derived from the literature, on the authors'  experiences of ICT use in education initiatives, on interviews with practitioners and academics, and on information from a workshop and consultations with Save the Children staff from August 2017. It includes predictions for the future of ICT use for learning, observations for deprived contexts, predictions for crisis affected areas (both short- and long-term crises), and  recommendations for Save the Children’s education programmes and advocacy. 

Nine changes in basic education by 2025 include: the slow pace of structural changes; increased diversity and inequality in learning; increasing advocacy about the importance of qualified teachers; increased advocacy for fundamental curriculum and pedagogical change; increased diversity of content provision; increased emphasis on life-long and nonformal learning; increased implementation of a holistic approach to learning; increased role of the private sector in delivering education; and use of technology in education, including possible replacement of literacy needs with voice technology.

Predictions and analysis of ICT-delivered learning for 2020 AND 2025, include criticism of programmes that are inappropriately designed because they are "solutions... designed elsewhere". However, "a small number of initiatives are beginning to be implemented that do indeed deliver enhanced learning opportunities for poor children in marginalised communities (see especially case studies from Jordan and Solomon Islands)." The authors found the need for widespread political will to change education systems and provide ICTs; and "technologies will need to be used to support widespread educational reform...." This should lead to diversity and contextualisation of teaching by "well-trained inspirational teachers." In 2025, the amount of digital content is likely to increase, but in-depth engagement may decrease. There is likely to continue to be a divide in philosophies on mobile and internet use between seeing them as engagement and distraction. "The main driver for such uses of technology will be the ever increasing competitiveness of employment," and parent desire for children to get good jobs. Digital assessment may be an aid to teachers, and parent engagement in education and family support for early learning may increase.  In low-income and peripheral areas, device sharing is likely to continue and might extend to family-based learning. Digital hubs, like libraries. Caching online content for use offline, including through visiting internet hubs for downloads and the use of older technologies, such as radio, in new ways are among the predictions.

For short-term crises like environmental disasters, mobile teaching, digital trauma counselling, crisis and recovery information, ITC enhanced School-in-a-Box, and host country refugee information are likely attempts to use ITC for cisis solutions. For longer term crises, digital community and learning centres can provide opportunities in refugee camps, including refugees acculturation within their host societies and multi-language videos to help young children manage complex intercultural living.

The document lists notable practices for using ICTs effectively in poor, rural and isolated communities:

  1.  "Using 'old' technologies (like radio and television) in new ways
  2. Sharing one device with lots of people
  3. Caching on-line content for offline use
  4. Promoting literacy and learning, and supporting teachers, with mobile phones
  5. Using low-cost video to support peer learning and support
  6. Developing content and tools locally"

Associated risks of digital learning in low-income and conflict-affected areas include: online child abuse; internet addiction; lack of attention to cost-benefit analyses of providing ICTs; and insufficient attention to monitoring and evaluation of ICT in education initiatives.

Among the recommendations for Save the Children’s education programmes and advocacy are the following:

  • Begin with a holistic view of education, and then identify appropriate technologies;
  • Enhance and support teacher training, including for technology use;
  • Design projects to scale;Focus on well-established technologies;
  • In all ICT activities, prioritise child online protection.
  • Advocate for structural changes in pedagogy and curriculum design rather than ICT solutions;
  • Advocate for online child protection and then more connectivity.

Case studies that follow the recommendations were chosen "to reflect a diversity of contexts and trajectories... to include  countries of varying sizes in different continents, with different levels of ICT use, different  levels of educational attainment, and varying levels of inequality" in, for example, small island  states (Grenada and Solomon Islands),  countries with high levels of refugees (Jordan and  Pakistan), and richer and economically poor countries (Somalia and the United Kingdom). Each describes the country demography including education statistics, and its ICT infrastructure, including its power grid and increases in mobile phone usage. Challenges include, for example, economic disparities that affect education, language diversity, pedagogy, refugee and teacher security, conflict areas, reaching rural population, and religious controls.


Save the Children Resource Centre website, February 14 2018. Image credit: Kj Borja/Save the Children