24 months in the making: how did the 2023 GEM Report on technology in education come together?

The 2023 Global Education Monitoring Report on technology in education was at least 24 months in the making until the global launch in Montevideo on 26-27 July 2023. Preparing a GEM Report is a complex process, which requires the mobilization of researchers, communication and advocacy specialists, administrative support, donors, external experts and partners, UNESCO offices, and governments.

A visionary Advisory Board decision

The GEM Report Advisory Board has many key roles, one of which is to select its thematic focus. In its June 2019 meeting, the Board selected technology as the theme for the 2023 GEM Report. No-one could have predicted the COVID-19 pandemic and yet, the decision to direct the GEM Report research to the theme of technology could not have been better timed. Technology in education became the point of discussion of policymakers, experts and members of the education community. Countries turned to different types of tools from radio to sophisticated learning platforms. However, despite best efforts, one third of students were unable to access online education, rising to over two-thirds of the poorest. The experience added urgency to the need for evidence-based recommendations to use technology appropriately in a world where it is evolving at breakneck speed.

A think piece and a concept note

To begin the research, as with each edition of the GEM Report, an international expert is selected to provide a think piece on the theme. Mary Burns, a senior expert in teacher professional development, online learning, instruction, curriculum development, and educational technology from the Education Development Center provided a think piece on technology in education, which helped the team develop the concept note for the 2023 GEM Report, which was launched in September 2021.

The concept note reviewed how technology in education is described in the Incheon Declaration and the Education 2030 Framework for Action, the foundational documents of SDG 4, and how its relevance has increased in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. It then discussed the often bitterly divided views of the role of technology. It raised two main questions for the report to address:

  1. What are the key challenges in education? Can appropriate use of technology offer solutions to them?
  2. What system-wide conditions need to be met for technology in education to reach its potential?

The most ambitious consultation process to date

Following the concept note, a global consultation process was initiated to gather evidence, research, and good practices from around the world on the use of technology in education.

Close to 45 consultations were organized with international organisations, universities, research centers, policy-makers, and teachers to inform the development of the 2023 GEM Report on technology in education.

All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development, Brains Global, CETIC.br, China National Academy of Educational Sciences, Fundación Ceibal, German National Commission for UNESCO, Global Action on Disability Network, Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies, International Education Funders Group, International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, Monash University, NORRAG, ProFuturo, Open University UK, Organization of Ibero-American States, RewirEd, UNESCO Brasilia, UKFIET, UN Etxea, UNESCO-UNEVOC, University of Edinburgh and USAID hosted virtual or in person consultations.

The consultations brought together almost 5,000 participants, 15 ministers of education and 300 senior officials who shared evidence and examples of good practices to inform the development of the report.

A series of consultation reports summarize the findings from the meetings, which complement the thoughts that were shared via the online consultation as well as the 25 background papers commissioned by the GEM Report team for the preparation of the 2023 report.

Two key constituencies: the expert group and group of friends

Every year, the GEM Report team convenes two informal groups to provide initial feedback to the content of the report (expert group) and to its recommendations (group of friends) to ensure that they resonate with the education community and can lead to significant policy change.

The expert group (Mary Burns, Cristóbal Cobo, Lucia Dellagnelo, Bart Epstein, Velislava Hillman, Gouri Gupta, Joseph Nsengimana, Dominic Orr, Neil Selwyn, Victoria Tinio and Riina Vuorikari) gathered in Paris and virtually to review the draft thematic chapters and provide feedback to the GEM Report team.

The group of friends met online to provide a sounding board for 2023 GEM Report recommendations, advising where language could be tweaked for greater impact, and to discuss opportunities for joint advocacy.

Global launch in Montevideo and beyond

The process culminated on 26 July 2023 with the global launch of the 2023 GEM Report on technology in education in Montevideo. The launch, organized jointly with the Ministry of Education and Culture of Uruguay and Ceibal Foundation, brought together 15 ministers of education and more than 80 experts to discuss the report’s key findings and recommendations.

The dissemination of the report will continue for at least one year. Almost 30 events are already in the pipeline to discuss and debate the findings of the report in different corners of the world, beginning with a presentation in Uzbekistan on 8 August and at the Digital Learning Week organized by UNESCO in Paris on 4-7 September. Advocacy briefs for teachers and on disability are being developed to ensure that the recommendations of the report speak to multiple audiences. A youth report and two regional editions on South-east Asia and the Pacific are also underway.

The road to the 2023 GEM Report was long but rewarding and outreach and dissemination activities are only starting!

We invite you to join our Newsalert, to visit the 2023 GEM Report page to find more information about upcoming activities, and to contact the GEM Report team to find ways in which you can be involved.


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