Policy toolkit

WHAT DOES good EdTech policy look like? Today there are few international standards in place to guide ministers of education. The following document, adopted by the Atlantis Group, offers some basic principles for ministers to consider.

Broadly speaking, effective policy around education technology should pass four basic tests: are the products improving learning? Are teachers equipped to use them? Are the best and most appropriate products reaching the market? And do the products fit into a wider education strategy?

The Atlantis Group invites current ministers of education to test education technology implementation in their country against the following four questions. It also makes a number of key recommendations for governments on how to make effective policy around EdTech.

Question 1: Evidence

There is little independent evidence about what EdTech works at scale. The result is that it’s difficult for schools, districts and governments to buy effective products. One World Bank study, for example, has described investments in educational technology in many countries as “faith-based initiatives”.[1] Ministers of education can help by fostering a culture of evidence gathering around EdTech. This, in turn, will help to make sure that schools and other buyers are purchasing effective technology.

The Atlantis Group urges ministers of education to:

      • Gather evidence about efficacy. Facilitate pilot programmes of the most promising EdTech products at regional and national levels and commission rigorous, independent assessments of their efficacy, drawing on international expertise where required.
      • Set up testbed schools. Set up a network of testbed schools to trial products and services, which use participatory design processes to involve pupils and teachers in the design of the product. Such testbeds should be subject to a clear remit and time limit.
      • Map the infrastructure. Commission a comprehensive review of schools’ digital infrastructure by region and make the results publicly available, including eg access to electrical grids, high-speed and wireless internet, and the electronic software and hardware in most common use.
      • Set up stakeholder expert communities. Set up communities of EdTech stakeholders in different regions. Such
        communities should serve to enhance the dialogue between government, educator, evidence and start-up. They should also help to establish the evidence of impact from testbeds.

Question 2: Teachers

Teachers need to have a say in the technology they use in the classrooms. They also need adequate training to use EdTech, including practical experience in the classroom. Ministers of education can help by consulting with teachers over their needs and building their capacity at each stage of teacher development.

The Atlantis Group urges ministers of education to:

    • Ensure that learning technologies and their use in the classroom is integrated into teacher education and professional development. Work with teacher education institutions and organizations to ensure that technology is considered in teacher training before the teacher begins to teach in the classroom. Develop a teacher’s acumen and their ability to integrate technology in pedagogy and their teaching practice as part of their initial teacher training, as well as professional development programmes.
    • Understand teachers’ needs. Commission a national needs-assessment with teachers and school leaders on education technology. Such an assessment should identify the levels of readiness in the teacher workforce to use education technology, the specific pedagogical demands for such technology, and where technology can assist teachers in their non-teaching administrative tasks.
    • Build teachers’ capacity. As part of a holistic approach towards teacher development, ensure that Digital Literacy and proficiency with the most commonly used hardware and software platforms are integral to Initial Teacher Training and Continuous Professional Development programmes, and prioritize in-classroom practice.
    • Assess EdTech-use as part of performance reviews and incentive programmes. Include usage of learning technologies and other EdTech in teachers’ performance reviews and incentive programmes, to ensure that technology is being used effectively and teachers’ needs are being met.

Question 3: Markets

Buyers and sellers often find it difficult to do business effectively. Ministers of education can help by setting out guidelines for what products are needed and where. They can also help to facilitate ease of business, through buying hubs and regional events.

The Atlantis Group urges ministers of education to:

    • Make EdTech purchasing more cost-effective. Ensure that EdTech buyers at all levels are required to complete a rigorous cost-effectiveness analysis before purchasing new products. At the most basic level, such an analysis should identify the desired educational outcome and compare the cost of the proposed EdTech intervention against that of a conventional approach.
    • Help buyers understand the market. Publish clear purchasing guidelines for buyers, with a checklist for efficacy, sustainability and cost-benefit. Where possible, make reference to examples of existing types of products that schools have adopted successfully.
    • Make it easier for buyers to meet sellers. Facilitate opportunities for buyers to meet sellers, including for example holding or sponsoring regional events and competitions.
    • Help sellers to sell efficiently and at scale. Trial buying hubs in different regions, in which sellers can present their products to groups of schools.
    • Help developers to make sure their products function and are relevant in the national context. Facilitate opportunities for developers to meet with teachers, school leaders and relevant authorities to develop new products within the national ecosystem, and trial them on a limited basis. More broadly, establish a dialogue between government and EdTech developers.
    • Work with the private sector to overcome data silos. Experiment with new business models between the public and private sector to facilitate a more open, transparent collaboration. Such models should focus on overcoming the current challenges of data silos and lack of interoperability. 

Question 4: Strategy

Most EdTech policy is piecemeal and limited in scope. Ministers need to set out a clear vision for how technology can augment and inform education systems at each level. Such a strategy should also include key stakeholders from different sectors, including representatives of teachers, researchers and business. More broadly, it should also be guided by the educational changes that governments want to see in the classroom.

The Atlantis Group urges ministers of education to:

  • Develop a national strategy for EdTech. Develop a comprehensive strategy for EdTech and its role in national education action plans and curricula, in consultation with the education sector. Such a strategy should focus on the educational changes desired in classrooms and schools, and how technology can deliver them. Ensure that such a strategy relies on the needs of teachers, school leadership and learners, rather than those of IT consultants.
  • Consult with all stakeholders: When defining Technology in Schools strategies, ensure that there is a consultancy process with expert stakeholders driven by education experts and supported by technologists and IT specialists.
  • Adapt strategy and curricula. Establish a periodic review of key learnings drawn from education technology implementation to inform the development of national action plans and curricula.
  • Share learnings. Set up peer-to-peer learning opportunities for schools to learn from each other about EdTech implementation. This could include, for example, ‘demonstrator schools’ to showcase best practice.
  • Set up a cross-sector task force. Establish an independent, cross-sector commission with a mandate to inform the government’s education technology strategy. The membership of such a commission should include representatives of the education sector, business and relevant academics, including learning science and pedagogical experts – and should have powers to draw on international expertise where required. This task force should enhance the dialogue between government, educator, evidence and start-up.
  • Protect privacy. Set clear standards for the collection, storage, retention and dissemination of personal data on learners and teachers. Strictly limit the powers of technology companies to sell or pass on such data to third parties. Ensure that all learners have the protection of the law against arbitrary interference with their right to privacy.
  • Ensure that the use of AI is transparent, unbiased and accountable. Set clear chains of accountability within the ministry of education for the deployment of artificial intelligence in public education. Develop quality checks for deep-learning algorithms and their use in public education, focused on eliminating AI bias and drawing on international expertise where necessary.


[1] Trucano, M., SABER-ICT Framework Paper for Policy Analysis: Documenting national educational technology policies around the world and their evolution over time. World Bank Education, Technology & Innovation: SABER-ICT Technical Paper Series (#01). The World Bank (2016)