DUBAI // Technology must be used as a tool to help learning rather replacing the teacher, education experts say.
The best teachers will continue to play a pivotal role in inspiring and educating children for decades to come, they said.
Delegates on the final day of the Global Education and Skills Forum held at Atlantis, The Palm, on Sunday were told that there had to be a balance between technology and the teacher.
“When the radio was introduced, they said it would replace the teacher and the same thing has been said for television, VHS and so on,” said David Edwards, deputy general secretary of Education International, a federation of teaching unions based in Belgium.
“Whatever technology is introduced must be seen as a tool to help the teacher but not as a replacement for the teacher.”
Anies Baswedan, Indonesia’s minister of education and culture, said teachers had to develop skills as technology improved.
“There has to be education and inspiration, which technology cannot do,” Mr Baswedan said. “Teachers must be able to educate and inspire as well as teach and, if they don’t, then maybe they will be replaced.”
Technology must be used to complement teaching, he said.
He called for parents to expect higher standards when it came to their child’s education and to demand more from teachers.
“We have 53 million students in Indonesia,” said Mr Baswedan.
“What we find is that these students have the mindset for the 21st century, but our teachers are in the 20th century and the classrooms are in the 19th century, so we need to bridge that gap.”
As well as improving standards through exams for teachers, the profession had to be seen as noble, he said. “One way we do that in Indonesia is to have special check-in counters at the airport just for teachers,” he said.
“This is a simple way to show how important teaching is to us.”
William Samoei Ruto, deputy president of Kenya, said a challenge to overcome was making technology available to as many schoolchildren as possible.
As a result, the Kenyan government launched a three-year project to connect all schools to an electricity grid by this summer.
“By the end of this year we will have more than 1 million child-ren with access to technology in the classroom,” Mr Ruto said.
Policymakers can play a vital role in identifying gaps in education and setting an agenda to raise the standard, he said.
Beatrize Cardoso, executive director of Laboratorio De Educacao, a non-government education company in Brazil, believes it is imperative that children develop better social skills.
“I don’t think we would be able to replace the teacher with technology,” she said. “Perhaps there will be some kind of hybrid combination of face-to-face teaching supplemented by the use of technology.”
Also at the event on Sunday, Hanan Al Hroub was announced as the winner of this year's Global Teacher Prize.
Ms Al Hroub, who teaches at the Samiha Khalil secondary school in Palestine, grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp and was motivated to teach by her experiences as a mother of children traumatised by a shooting.
The award comes with a prize of US$1 million (Dh3.67m).