OECD seeks to enhance education using IT

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The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will continue to discuss effective ways to utilize information technology in education to follow up the Group of Eight education ministers’ meeting due to end Monday, OECD Deputy Secretary General Thorvald Moe said.

As the world economies “gradually move to the knowledge society” from the industrialized society, the common tasks for G8 countries are research into creating new types of schools utilizing IT, Moe said in an interview with The Japan Times.

The OECD will also carry on discussions on what to do with the “digital divide” that has been created due to the access, or lack of, to such technology, said Moe, who is visiting Japan to attend the G8 education ministerial meeting.

The OECD will first look at ways to reduce the gap between the countries that have advanced use of IT and those who do not within its 29-member framework, the Norwegian said.

Moe raised the example of Iceland, which has decided to give every high school student a personal computer, as one of the front-runners of using IT in education.

For developing countries, different approaches must be taken because some countries, including China, India, Brazil and Argentina, are already interested in utilizing information technology, while many African countries must take a more fundamental approach, such as implementing good governance, Moe said.

But he added that the development of IT and its implications on education are common challenges that all countries will face. “Whether you like it or not, these are the developments and challenges (that) will come up.”

Some U.S. universities are already offering MBA programs over the Internet for students overseas so that they can get degrees without leaving their country and work.

As seen in this example, Moe said the use of IT could be a powerful tool for life-long learning, which he says will be necessary in the knowledge society.

“I think in most countries, life-long learning is not much of a reality yet, but obviously . . . (the IT) is a development which will continue, so I think it’s very important for life-long learning,” he said.

Moe noted that information technology has not been utilized to its full capacity, not only because of lack of equipment, but also because of lack of competency among school teachers. Good teacher training is essential for effective use of IT, he said.

The OECD will also continue discussions on measuring educational output in each country, thereby collecting data which countries can use to compare educational output with other nations and be reflected on their own educational policies, he said.

The OECD hopes to “sum up” the policy debate and guide further discussions on IT, the digital divide and education indicators at its education ministerial meeting in Paris in April 2001, Moe said.

“But each country must go back to their own country and talk about what they think is sensible and right for their country.” he said.