UNESCO GEM Report Launches Report on Technology in Education in Southeast Asia: #TechOnOurTerms Placing Learners and Teachers at the Heart of EdTech Reforms


UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report Team, in collaboration with the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) Secretariat, and the invaluable contribution of EdTech Hub, proudly announces the launch of its latest report for Southeast Asia. This comprehensive report, on the heels of its global version in July 2023, sheds light on the swiftly evolving digital landscape across the region, underscoring technology’s pivotal role in propelling socioeconomic development. The report’s profound insights highlight the expansion of digital infrastructure, unlocking unprecedented learning opportunities that, regrettably, remain accessible to only a fraction of the population. In response, UNESCO GEM Report Team and SEAMEO advocate for a nuanced approach embodied in the #TechOnOurTerms campaign. This emphasises the importance of individualized national strategies. The campaign sends a clear message to policy makers, technology creators and developers, and stakeholders, urging education technology innovations and platforms to be designed based on the needs of learners and teachers, not solely driven by technology. Ministries of education play a crucial role in ensuring the judicious and balanced integration of technology in education within each country.



Digital Infrastructure Expansion: The report reveals a remarkable surge in digital infrastructure across the region, positioning it among the world's fastest-growing in internet use over the past 15 years. This expansion is highlighted by heightened focus on connectivity and devices, with nearly all countries implementing policies to enhance access. Notably, some nations have gone a step further, introducing initiatives that provide subsidies or deductions to facilitate device acquisition. The landscape is further enriched by a proliferation of diverse digital platforms and content, creating a dynamic environment for learning. It is noteworthy that learning management systems have experienced the fastest growth in Malaysia and Singapore. Additionally, the report highlights the transformative impact of micro-credentials in higher education, citing the example of the Philippines where students seamlessly integrate these courses to complement their university studies, showcasing the adaptability and responsiveness of the education system to emerging trends.

Technology as a Socioeconomic Priority: Positioning technology as a cornerstone for socioeconomic development, Southeast Asian nations exhibit a collective recognition of its pivotal importance. Across nine countries, policies, plans, and strategies underscore a commitment to promoting digital literacy and the integration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Notably, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam stand out as the fastest enrollment rates in massive open online courses providers. The report substantiates a resolute focus on technology for skills development, with tangible steps taken to define digital skills within school frameworks. However, it candidly acknowledges that challenges persist in effectively managing technology within the realms of ministries of education.

Expanding Education Opportunities: Facilitating education and learning opportunities for diverse segments of the population, technology emerges as a powerful enabler. The report vividly illustrates how technology bridges gaps, providing access to learners traditionally excluded from conventional education. In Thailand, for instance, television programs have successfully reached over a million students in remote areas grappling with teacher shortages. Meanwhile, in Singapore, the integration of assistive technologies has proven instrumental in mainstreaming students with disabilities. Beyond geographical barriers, technology-enabled solutions broaden access to teaching and learning resources. Noteworthy statistics include the fact that 96% of students in Singapore, 77% in Thailand, and 59% in Indonesia attend schools equipped with online learning platforms. The Philippines, in particular, has witnessed the impact, with over 4,500 open education resources reaching a staggering 10.5 million unique users in 2021 alone. Significantly, technology emerges as a pillar of resilience, supporting learning continuity in emergencies, a role it played even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inequality in Access Hindering Progress: Despite the positive strides made by technology, the report underscores persistent disparities in access, usage proficiency, and confidence levels. A stark illustration of this divide reveals that students hailing from wealthier households are nearly eight times more likely to have home connectivity than their less privileged counterparts. Furthermore, a glaring urban-rural gap emerges, with students attending urban schools being twice as likely to engage with computers compared to their rural counterparts. The challenges extend to educators, as evidenced by teachers in Cambodia struggling with digital forms for student data and reporting heightened stress due to IT tasks in Malaysia. Confidence in technology usage among primary teachers remains a concern, with nearly one-third expressing 'not very' or 'not at all' confidence in employing ICT in the classroom across Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam in 2019. Addressing these disparities is imperative for fostering an inclusive and equitable digital education landscape.

Balancing Potential and Pitfalls for Enhanced Learning Outcomes: While certain technologies hold the potential to enhance specific learning experiences within particular contexts, caution is warranted in their implementation. A key principle emphasizes that digital inputs should not take precedence over the fundamental focus on learning outcomes. Ensuring the quality of digital content becomes paramount, necessitating robust government oversight. However, the current centralised quality assurance process in the Philippines proves resource-intensive. The integration of technology in schools remains underutilised, exemplified by the fact that approximately 9 out of 10 teachers in Cambodia and the Lao PDR report 'never' or 'hardly ever' incorporating ICT for teaching mathematics. Similarly, a mere 8% of 15-year-old students in Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, and Thailand use digital devices for more than one hour per week in mathematics and science. Notably, evidence on the impact of technology in the region remains limited, as ministries collect data on technology in education but seldom analyse their effects on learning. A survey of 205 division ICT coordinators in the Philippines further underscores this gap, with 41% stating that they never conducted impact evaluations of ICT. Addressing these challenges is crucial for harnessing the full potential of technology to positively impact education outcomes.

Unveiling the Hidden Costs: The often underestimated short- and long-term costs associated with the utilisation of digital technology present multifaceted challenges. In terms of budgetary considerations, connecting all schools in lower-middle-income countries in the region to the internet would require a substantial capital expenditure, amounting to USD 18 billion. The transition to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic unveiled significant privacy concerns, with children’s data exposed. Alarmingly, less than one in three countries have enacted legal or policy measures to guarantee data privacy in education. Moreover, the environmental impact of technology manifests in the form of a surplus of e-waste, with the current tally reaching 12.3, yet there remains a notable absence of comprehensive policies or legislation regulating e-waste. Acknowledging and addressing these dimensions are imperative for the responsible and sustainable integration of digital technology into educational systems.

The full GEM Report can be downloaded using the following link: (click here).

The GEM Report Summary is available in  EnglishThaiBurmeseVietnamese, and  Khmer.