Achieving SDG 4 using EdTech (The importance of achieving equity and inclusivity

What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are action points adopted by the United Nations to eradicate poverty, preserve the planet, and ensure peace and prosperity for all people by 2030. There are 17 goals in total. These are interconnected to provide a positive balance between social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

What is the fourth SDG?

The fourth SDG states: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Equity is being fair and impartial to all persons, whereas inclusivity deals with providing equal access to opportunities and resources to those who would be otherwise marginalized.

Some of the sub-targets under this objective include:

  • All children of school-going age should have free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education.
  • Access to early childhood development to prepare children for primary education.
  • Women and men should have equal access to affordable, quality technical, vocational, and tertiary education.
  • By 2030, there should be an increase in the number of adults and youth who have relevant employment and entrepreneurship skills.

Importance of SDG 4

Pre-Covid-19 pandemic, 258 million children of school-going age were not enrolled in school. Out of this, those from marginalized groups were the majority. As of 2019, 53% of 10-year-olds in Lower and Middle-Income countries could not read a sentence although enrolled in school.

Photo by Marta Wave from Pexels
Inclusive and equitable quality education goes a long way to promote lifelong learning opportunities. Photo by Marta Wave from Pexels

The fourth SDG is vital because achieving it sets a foundation to complete other sub-goals under different SDG goals. Also, access to equitable and inclusive education helps reduce inequality, is essential for sustainable development, and increases social mobility.

How EdTech can help achieve this

There are four prominent roles Edtech can play to achieve this goal:

1. Data for Decision-Making

To effectively use Edtech, there is a need for data collection and evaluation. Edtech can collect data from relevant stakeholders within the educational sector (teachers, students, and parents). Some of the data collected can include feedback, concerns, and suggestions these stakeholders have in improving the educational system for students. This helps all educational technology created remain relevant and personalized based on the intersection of the current needs of the stakeholders.

However, in the collection of data, there are some caveats to consider:

  • Data collection should not compromise the safety of students. That should influence the kind of data collected and how it is stored and disseminated.
  • Data collection should empower communities and students, and their views should be central.
  • The review of data collection should not be biased but holistic, ensuring a wide range is covered.

2. Curriculum and Assessment Adaptation

A key pillar in educational systems is having a curriculum and assessing students.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that “the curriculum must be of direct relevance to the child’s social, cultural, environmental, and economic context.” However, in many developing regions, the curricula tend to ignore the local context, sometimes focusing on contextually irrelevant skills, with material not delivered in a native language.

Augmenting the curriculum will go a long way in ensuring equity. Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels

For curriculums to be inclusive, Edtech can help by ensuring that Open Educational Resources and other digital tools are aligned to an inclusive curriculum that is contextually relevant. This provides more fluidity for learners and greater diversity and enhances the number of possible opportunities for alternative certifications.

Regarding assessments, Edtech tools can help by providing more than standardized tests that tend to be narrow and non-inclusive of some learners. There is the temptation to fall into rote teaching instead of active learning with standardized assessments. Instead, Edtech platforms can assist teachers during evaluations. These platforms can provide personalized reviews that cater to diverse needs and modify content or formats if they impede a student from completing an evaluation. These assessments hosted by Edtech platforms also should be aligned with the curriculum and the language of instruction.

3. Teacher professional development

Teachers, when adequately trained, can help aid inclusivity in the classroom while using Edtech as a tool. The values that should underpin such training are valuing learner diversity, supporting all learners, and collaboration. The development of such teachers should be continuous. Edtech can also prepare teachers through professional development programs, specifically for teachers within marginalized groups. Therefore, these Edtech tools should be designed for teachers and alongside the teachers. For this, a broad range of teachers is needed to ensure enough diversity in the teaching styles and content, thus making it easier for marginalized learners.

Photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels
Developing teachers will support EdTech Adoption. Photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels

4. Participatory and integrated approaches

Any Edtech tool should be made with students as active technology participants. This ensures that it adequately meets their needs and includes the different types of students. Apart from students being at the forefront, other relevant stakeholders should also be part of the design process, such as the parents and the community. This calls for cross-sectoral approaches when designing such digital tools to ensure equity.

Moreover, to ensure that Edtech reaches out-of-school learners, it should be accessible outside a school environment to ensure that students can continually access them.

Conclusion

It is crucial to align Edtech solutions with SDG 4 to reach more sustainable development, particularly within the educational sector.

To attain inclusivity and equity in education, Edtech can be beneficial by playing four key roles:

  1. Edtech can bridge Edtech developers and the community regarding data collection. Gaining relevant and current data allows Edtech tools to be personalized and valuable for the learners’ experience.
  2. Edtech should align with inclusive curricula and assessment and provide enough flexibility and personalization to remove students’ barriers with rote learning and standardized tests.
  3. Edtech should also focus on the teaching experience by helping to train teachers on how to teach students more inclusively and equitably.
  4. End-users must be at the center of the design of all Edtech tools. A collaborative approach with all relevant stakeholders is needed. These stakeholders include but are not limited to; students, parents, and teachers must be included to develop holistic solutions.

Using Edtech to fulfill these roles will ensure that we are well on our way to attaining equitable and inclusive education for all.

With all of that in mind, we hope accessibility features will take a new meaning for those of you who do not use them! Let us appreciate their presence and vow to include more of them in our software.

About Chalkboard Education

Chalkboard Education provides a mobile-based, offline-first Learning Management System tailored for underserved communities training. Lightweight, inclusive, and complete with full analytics capabilities, Chalkboard Education helps you reach your beneficiaries everywhere in the World, seamlessly. Currently used in 12+ countries in Africa, South and North America, Chalkboard Education is available worldwide.

References

Azevedo, J. P. (2020). How could COVID-19 hinder progress with Learning Poverty? Some initial simulations. World Bank. Retrieved from https://blogs.worldbank.org/education/how-could-covid-19-hinder-progress-learning-poverty-some-initial-simulations

Edwards, J. (2019, March 10). How EdTech Delivery Models Can Help Us Achieve SDG4 (or Make the Problem Worse). Retrieved from Jay Edwards: https://medium.com/@jay_edwards/how-new-edtech-delivery-models-can-help-us-achieve-sdg4-or-make-the-problem-worse-61fdda21e350#_ftn1

Global Partnership for Education. (2016, July 2). The Role of Technology in Global Goal 4: Quality Education. Retrieved from Global Citizen: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/technology-access-education-sdg-4/

SDG 4 Education. (n.d.). The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from SDG 4 Education 2030: https://sdg4education2030.org/the-goal

Sustainable Development Goals Fund. (2017, January 25). New partnerships for Digital Education: Rising to the challenge of SDG4. Retrieved from Sustainable Development Goals Fund: https://www.sdgfund.org/new-partnerships-digital-education-rising-challenge-sdg4

UNDP. (n.d.). What are the Sustainable Development Goals? Retrieved from UNDP: https://www.undp.org/sustainable-development-goals

UNESCO. (2020). Global Education Monitoring Report 2020: Inclusion and Education — All Means All. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

UNESCO-UIS. (2019). New methodology shows that 258 million Children, Adolescents, and Youth are out of school. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Zubairi, A., Kreimeia, A., Jefferies, K., & Nicolai, S. (2021). EdTech to Reach the Most Marginalised: A Call to Action. EdTech Hub.

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Educational technology in Africa and emerging markets https://www.chalkboard.education/

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Chalkboard Education

Chalkboard Education

Educational technology in Africa and emerging markets https://www.chalkboard.education/

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