Leverage technological innovation for lifelong learning, says UIL

28 September 2021

Leveraging technological innovation is critical to enhancing lifelong learning opportunities for all youth and adults. That was the key message of the policy sessions organized by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), together with the Korea Education Frontier Association (KEFA), the UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education and the Korea Education and Research Information Service (KERIS), during the EdTech Korea Forum 2021. Hosted by the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Education on 16 September, the forum engaged 29 high-level officials from ministries in 22 countries and was attended by hundreds of participants from across the globe.

Officials heard from a diverse range of speakers who shared how technological innovation and creative programme design have delivered inclusive literacy and educational opportunities to youth and adults. In his opening remarks, UIL Director Mr David Atchoarena said that, as governments and educators continued to manage the disruption caused by the pandemic, its transformative effects could already be seen in industry and society. Many workers had learned new skills in order to adapt to online means of communication, collaboration and discussion, he said.

The majority of higher education institutions had gone online, as had many schools around the world. However, in the midst of this change, many had been left behind. Mr Atchoarena argued that it was imperative that government and education stakeholders ensured lifelong learning opportunities, from basic literacy and access to technology to reskilling and personal development for work and life, were available to all.

During the first policy session, innovative examples of technology-supported literacy and language learning in diverse settings – from urban, well-connected cities to rural and remote areas with low technological infrastructure – were shared. These included a free online language learning resource for low and non-literate youths and adult in four European countries and projects to support effective pathways for marginalized youth and adults in Rwanda and effective learning education at scale through low-cost technologies in low-resource environments in West Africa and the Middle-East. The lessons learned from these programmes will be further elaborated in a forthcoming UIL publication. One was that literacy programmes need to offer different paths and resources for different learners, while also ensuring adaptation to their learners’ environment, life priorities and available support. Moreover, they should use evidence-based methods to deliver impactful results and be responsive to changes such as the pandemic.

The second policy session focused on promoting adult skills and workforce development at national and international level by harnessing artificial intelligence and Big Data for inclusive and future-oriented lifelong learning. The SkillsFuture Singapore initiative, demonstrating how data on jobs skills can be leveraged to provide responsive, comprehensive and customized jobs-skills insights, was presented, alongside a KERIS initiative that used artificial intelligence to facilitate course-matching for Korean adults looking to upskill and Coursera’s offer of free online learning courses to countries and marginalized groups during the pandemic.

The EdTech Korea Forum 2021 was the outcome of a significant cross-border, multi-national collaborative effort. High-level officials were able to learn about the possibilities offered by technology-supported lifelong learning innovations around the world. It is hoped that this forum triggers new partnerships in the coming months.