Libya and other Mediterranean countries agree to boost digital learning
Ten Mediterranean countries plan to collaborate in developing digital learning in their countries under an agreement signed on Wednesday (September 30th).
The education ministers of the 10 countries convened in Biarritz, France at the 5+5 Education Meeting that brought together Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Mauritania with European partners France, Spain, Italy, Malta and Portugal.
The measures adopted at the meeting are "an important response to what is going on in the world," said Tunisian Minister of Education Hatem Ben Salem, who co-chaired the meeting along with his French counterpart, Luc Chatel.
Chatel announced several key decisions that emerged from the meeting, including the drafting of a Mediterranean Charter for the use of the internet in schools, and the issuance of a Mediterranean certificate for educational specialists in digital learning, to be recognised by the 10 countries.
"[The participants] agreed to forge e-partnering programmes among various Mediterranean schools and set up a digital education fund," said the French minister, who called the meeting historic "because we are meeting during the peak of the crisis to discuss the future of our youth".
The participating countries discussed their respective experiences, especially regarding information and communication technology (ICT), dissemination of digital educational content, and training teachers in ICT's pedagogical uses.
The participants unanimously set forth a number of measures. These included formulating the 5+5 Charter for the use of the Internet in schools in order to support the development of ICT, defining the conditions for instituting a common certification for teachers' ICT skills, developing an information service/collaborative training for teachers in the region on the educational uses of ICT, and initiating e-partnering to enable countries in the region to promote communication among young people with different languages and cultures.
The 10 countries also pledged to re-convene each year and establish a group of senior experts to develop a plan of action that results in regional and sub-regional projects. The plan will be reviewed during the next 5+5 Education Meeting, to be held in Tunisia in 2010.
For its part, the Tunisian delegation presented their national plan to integrate ICT into educational strategy, which primarily concerns integrating new technology into teaching, as well as creating bodies to oversee the development of the needed human resources. The Tunisian plan also targets enhancing infrastructure, networks, and equipment, while establishing model institutions and exploring new projects.
Last summer, Tunisia hosted an international digital education conference for teachers that nearly 200 elementary and high school teachers from 20 African states attended.
During this academic year, Tunisia established "digital blackboards" in 12 teaching institutions. The digital blackboard is used to teach subjects such as geology and physics, and will be introduced nationwide by 2014.
The agreement adopted in France appeared to be well-received by many Maghreb educators. "The steps taken in Biarritz are essential to advancing Mediterranean co-operation, especially in the field of education, which is vital to cement relations among Mediterranean nations," said Belgacem Hassen, director-general for education in Tunisia, in a statement to Magharebia.
"Tunis has pioneering experience in that regard, and its Maghreb neighbours stand to benefit a lot," added the director-general.
"First, we need to minimise the gap between Europeans and Maghreb residents, as well as the one separating the various Maghreb nations, because these experiments are still in their beginnings," Lamiaa, an elementary school teacher in Tunis, told Magharebia. "Each country should assist the others in overcoming obstacles and bridging what we can call the 'digital gap'."
Tunisia is not alone in promoting ICT. In June of last year, Morocco's Mohammed V Social Institution for Education launched a programme called "Window" to encourage the use of ICT in national education.