The way forward is mutually sharing our experiences and being open to working together, said Mart Laidmets, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Education and Research of Estonia at the BettFest today.
Full text of the address:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear organizers of the BettFest 2021,
Thank you for bringing together this exceptional event in these unprecedented times.
I am eager to share with you the Estonian experience in making use of digital solutions in education and especially in the context of our response to the pandemic.
We believe that introducing digital solutions to our education system is not an objective on its own. Instead, we consistently stress the importance of finding ways to empower and innovate our teaching, all while aiming an inclusive approach, that can bring this innovation to all of our students and all of our teachers. These beliefs have allowed us to make ICT work for our learners, and not the other way around: digital skills and competences provide students better, more efficient, and more personalized teaching and learning.
The COVID-19 crisis has shown that providing education from a distance is a viable alternative to face-to-face learning. This has been possible thanks to our students being digitally literate, and our teachers being adequately trained and being able to make use of the digital tools at their disposal. This successful, prompt, and smooth transition was possible thanks to consistent efforts from previous decades, a learner-centered mindset, and an openness towards innovative solutions. For Estonia, transition to distance learning was merely a change of learning environment.
We have been building our digital education infrastructure for about three decades already. And just as technological innovations are in continuous development, we are nowhere near to being done. If the priority of the 1990s was to ensure internet access to all schools across Estonia, the challenges we face today are different, increasingly versatile and require our consistent attention to ensure progress in our education system. For example, we need to ensure that connection speed meets current standards; that our students and teachers, as creators rather than consumers, match their digital skills to the needs of an ever-changing society; and that all students have access to necessary digital tools, especially in this speedy shift to distance learning.
The digital tools in widespread use by teachers and students alike have not only been of vital importance during this ongoing crisis, but have also simplified, improved accessibility, and enhanced our education system as a whole. These tools include, for example, the e-diary system, which is used by about 95% of our students. This allows teachers to share homework, feedback, and progress; and can be accessed by parents and fellow teachers, to keep an eye on students’ progress and overall workload.
Another positive experience is the introduction of digital learning materials – alleviating the schoolbag under everyday circumstances and ensuring access to education from a distance under more exceptional conditions. As one of the important conclusions from the transition to distance learning in March, we have devoted special attention to the development of digital learning materials for students with special educational needs and disabilities.
A positive element of the coronavirus was the solidarity we witnessed between all sectors. To diversify everyday practices in distance learning, private sector actors generously offered their digital solutions for schools to use; another great example was an initiative led by third and private sector actors to collect digital devices to students in need.
Though the brisk transition to digital learning has proven to be successful, I’d nonetheless like to share some lessons learned: now more than ever, the crisis has demonstrated the importance of students’ ability to learn independently and as a self-directed learner. Second, despite our renown as a digitally savvy country, we need to make sure that all households have access to the necessary devices to access online learning.
I am sure these lessons are not unique to Estonia. As a firm believer in cooperation, I am confident that the way forward is mutually sharing our experiences and being open to working together.
On behalf of Education Estonia, we are more than enthusiastic to offer our know-how on making digital solutions work for kick-starting education systems worldwide.
BettFest, an international education show was found over 35 years ago, usually taking place in January in London. It brings together large number of entrepreneurs and experts from education and visitors from all over the world to share and discuss ideas, best practices and technology in education. Bett aims to value and facilitate discussions on the future of education and explore how technology and innovation helps to develop teachers and students.
- Additional information of BettFest’s website