Exchanging ideas on achieving sustainability and quality can be reached through three principles: – equipping graduates with knowledge, – fostering scientific research and – developing professional community collaborations. Let us see that but in detail.
The above-featured image is for illustration and is credit to Iraqi News
Exchanging ideas on achieving sustainability and quality
Almost exactly 10 years ago a colleague and I were invited to Iraqi Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq. Our work took us to Soran University in Soran, a mountainous region in the north of Kurdistan about 150 kilometres from Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
During our time with the university, we conducted workshops with academic staff, carried out audits of various teaching-learning settings and presented to the wider university on research strategy and internationalisation.
We met a fascinating and diverse academic staff, each with their own interesting story. A substantial number had been recruited from countries in Europe. There were also several local academics who had completed their postgraduate studies overseas.
An especially memorable experience was sitting in on a class given by an Iraqi academic who had recently returned from Germany where he had completed a doctorate and had learnt to speak English. He taught his class at Soran University in English, but with a heavy German accent that had delightfully rubbed off on his students who similarly responded in English with a broad German accent.
In September this year, we were again invited to Iraq by Al-Noor University College located in Mosul, situated approximately 80 kilometres from Erbil. The university was established in 2013 and currently offers academic programmes across 12 departments.
The institution is committed to three principal goals. These are 1) equipping graduates with knowledge that prepares them for the profession they intend to enter; 2) fostering scientific research; and 3) developing professional community collaborations in the pursuit of addressing societal needs, including in the area of sustainable development.
The university was hosting its inaugural congress on the theme of sustainability and aviation. The congress brought together ministry officials, policy-makers, researchers, academics, students, scientists and engineers from a number of countries, including Australia and Malaysia, and from across Iraq.
The area of aviation was well-covered by other speakers who shared their expertise in and data about the most recent advancements and challenges in the fields of sustainability, renewable energies and the aviation industry.
My keynote address focused on how education at all levels can and must play a significant role in promoting sustainable development – specifically, how high-quality education is the means to achieving this goal because, without a highly educated population and highly skilled workforce, it is unlikely that the goals stipulated in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can and will be realised.
One of the targets for UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 is ensuring that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.
The message reinforced the significant part that Al-Noor University College and other higher education institutions could and should play in preparing the next generation of professionals, knowledge-makers and solution-finders to address today’s big global issues. Those include, for example, clean water and sanitation for all, sustainable cities and communities, affordable and clean energy, eradicating poverty and the conservation of our environment.
This message is highly relevant when we consider the society in which we live today, one characterised by increasing levels of risk and uncertainty. We need high-quality education to prepare graduates as best we can for those risks, to contribute positively with confidence to unexpected circumstances with needed innovations and-or advancements.
I left the audience with a series of questions, the responses to which will be very much affected by the unique geopolitical, cultural, social, economic and environmental context in which the education institution resides.
They included contemplating the current and future role of higher education in Iraq (and further afield) in addressing the challenges associated with sustainability and how universities can best integrate sustainability into their teaching, research and across the whole of their operations. The latter includes consideration of the types of academic programmes to be developed and the types of graduates the country expects and requires.
What was especially pleasing was the active participation and support of ministry officials and their willingness to listen to issues raised by the university academics. The issue that received the most robust discussion revolved around the need for a national qualifications framework to provide guidance to universities about the expected standard of student learning outcomes at different levels of education, from certificate through to doctorate level.
Such a framework would support standardising the level and quality of what is offered or delivered to students and improve international recognition of Iraqi qualifications to facilitate transferability of these qualifications for student educational mobility.
It was again a privilege to spend some time in a truly remarkable, culturally ancient, fascinating and complex part of the world where rapid development is occurring in so many fields, including in higher education.
Dr Nita Temmerman has held senior university positions including pro vice-chancellor (academic quality and partnerships) and executive dean in Australia. She is an invited accreditation specialist with the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications and international associate with the Center for Learning Innovations and Customized Knowledge Solutions in Dubai. She is chair of two higher education academic boards, and invited professor and consultant to universities in Australia, the Pacific region, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Today’s calls for the appropriate use of technology in education are getting increasingly louder, for it is paramount to prepare for a more hopefully sustainable future.
The above-featured image is for illustration and is credit to UNESCO.
2023 GEM Report out today calls for appropriate use of technology in education
By: GEM Report
The sixth in the GEM Report series, Technology in education: A tool on whose terms?, urges countries to set their own terms for the way technology is designed and used in education so that it never replaces in-person, teacher-led instruction, and supports the shared objective of quality education for all.
The report is being launched today at an event in Montevideo, Uruguay, hosted by the GEM Report, the Ministry of Education and Culture of Uruguay and Ceibal Foundation with 18 ministers of education from around the world. It proposes a four-point compass that policy makers and educational stakeholders can use when deciding how to deploy technology in education:
1. Is it appropriate?
Using technology can improve some types of learning in some contexts. The report cites evidence showing that learning benefits disappear if technology is used in excess or in the absence of a qualified teacher. For example, distributing computers to students does not improve learning on its own without the engagement of trained teachers. Smartphones in schools have proven to be a distraction to learning, yet fewer than a quarter of countries ban their use in schools.
Learning inequities between students widen when instruction is exclusively remote and when online content is not context appropriate. A study of open educational resource collections found that nearly 90% of higher education online repositories were created either in Europe or in North America; 92% of the material in the OER Commons global library is in English.
2. Is it equitable?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid shift to online learning left out at least half a billion students worldwide, mostly affecting the poorest and those in rural areas. The report underlines that the right to education is increasingly synonymous with the right to meaningful connectivity, yet one in four primary schools do not even have electricity. It calls for all countries to set benchmarks for connecting schools to the internet between now and 2030 and for the focus to remain on the most marginalized.
Percentage of 3- to 17-year-olds with internet connection at home, by wealth quintile, selected countries, 2017–19 Source: UNICEF database.
3. Is it scalable?
Sound, rigorous and impartial evidence of technology’s added value in learning is needed more than ever, but is lacking. Most evidence comes from the United States, where the What Works Clearinghouse pointed out that less than 2% of education interventions assessed had ‘strong or moderate evidence of effectiveness’. When the evidence only comes from the technology companies themselves, there is a risk it may be biased.
Many countries ignore the long-term costs of technology purchases and the EdTech market is expanding while basic education needs remain unmet. The cost of moving to basic digital learning in low-income countries and of connecting all schools to the internet in lower-middle-income countries would add 50% to their current financing gap for achieving national SDG 4 targets. A full digital transformation of education with internet connectivity in schools and homes would cost over a billion per day just to operate.
4. Is it sustainable?
The fast pace of change in technology is putting strain on education systems to adapt. Digital literacy and critical thinking are increasingly important, particularly with the growth of generative AI. This adaptation movement has begun: 54% of countries have defined the skills they want to develop for the future. But only 11 out of 51 governments surveyed have curricula for AI.
In addition to these skills, basic literacy should not be overlooked, as it is critical for digital application too: students with better reading skills are far less likely to be duped by phishing emails. Moreover, teachers also need appropriate training yet only half of countries currently have standards for developing their ICT skills. Few teacher training programmes cover cybersecurity even though 5% of ransomware attacks target education.
Sustainability also requires better guaranteeing the rights of technology users. Today, only 16% of countries guarantee data privacy in education by law. One analysis found that 89% of 163 education technology products could survey children. Further, 39 of 42 governments providing online education during the pandemic fostered uses that ‘risked or infringed’ on children’s rights.
It also requires ensuring that the long-term costs for our planet are taken into account. One estimate of the CO2 emissions that could be saved by extending the lifespan of all laptops in the European Union by a year found it would be equivalent to taking almost 1 million cars off the road.
The report calls for us to learn about our past mistakes when using technology in education so that we do not repeat them in the future. The #TechOnOurTerms campaign calls for decisions about technology in education to prioritize learner needs after assessing whether its application would be appropriate, equitable, evidence-based and sustainable. We need to teach children to live both with and without technology; to take what they need from the abundance of information, but to ignore what is not necessary; to let technology support, but never supplant human interactions in teaching and learning.
Today English is undoubtedly the language of communication and international exchange. The following might, for most, be taken for granted. It is about the Language of Communication and International Exchange of a maximum of people around the world today.
The above-featured image is for illustration and is of the English Channel / credit Journals of India.
It is an undeniable reality. The phenomenon is due to three essential factors: first, the relative simplicity of its grammar and spelling; second, the extent of its application corresponding to the immensity of the former British Empire and third, the US economic and military supremacy.
The English lingua took off after the Second World War with the American technological boom and its impact on aeronautics, automobiles, machinery, etc.
The American way of life was well exported and brought in a lot, and almost everyone wanted to adopt it. Add to all this the soft power, i.e. Hollywood cinema, the music of Elvis Presley and other amenities made in the USA, and you will understand the cause of the vertiginous expansion of William Chikh Zoubir’s alias Shakespeare language.
Each civilization at its peak had radiated on the world and transmitted its values to it. In Caesarean Numidia, the Berber princes sent their sons to Italy to immerse themselves in Roman culture. That said, French is still the most learned language in the world after English.
First, Locke, Newton and then Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu, these actors of the Age of Enlightenment, were translated and read worldwide as avant-garde philosophers conveying the ideas of freedom and equality of peoples. These values made it possible to define new natural rights in England, France and the US.
In the eighteenth century, speaking the language of Molière in the royal or princely courts of Europe gave these monarchical circles a vernissage of distinction like Versailles of the Sun King. French also remains the reference in classical literature, poetry and belles lettres. English is a popular and straightforward language; French is academic and complicated. In the end, borrowing from the French half of its vocabulary, English now gives him a middle finger as a thank you and snubs him from the top of his globalized linguistic pedestal.
The quality of a language would be its ability to convey thoughts, ideas, and data, by voice or writing, as clearly and faithfully as possible. In short, it is the art of communicating with one’s neighbour. In light of these opinions, French has therefore sinned by its propensity to complicate grammar and spelling rules, making them almost inaccessible to the layman.
On the other hand, by its simplicity and widespread nature, English has found itself within everyone’s reach with the mini of means and time. Moreover, there are two types of language in this world, the beautiful and the good. (The bad ones are more a matter of psychology).
The beautiful ones are spoken around the big blue on the Mediterranean north shore with Spanish, French, Italian, and Greek. As for the good ones, the rest of the world speaks them, following the example of Chinese, Indo-European (except Greco-Latin) and African idioms. Nevertheless, we must mention the two major and mythical languages that have modified the history of humanity to close this paragraph. I am thinking of Hebrew and Arabic.
In the process of Transforming education, the author wonders in this UNESCO article; How can technology and youth drive change? Knowing that Technology can enhance the learning experience, address educational challenges, and prepare learners for future jobs.
Transforming education: How can technology and youth drive change?
As the world reaches a critical point between the Transforming Education Summit and the SDG Summit scheduled to take place in September 2023, there is an urgent need for actions to break down the barriers that keep 244 million young people out of school. This blog announces a new partnership with Restless Development and the GEM Report. Together we aim to mobilize youth globally to inform the development of the 2023 Youth Report on technology and education, exploring how technology can address various education challenges, including issues of access, equity and inclusion, quality and system management.
Education online – a case in point
After the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the education sector is still in recovery. The pandemic had a profound impact youth, with the most vulnerable learners being hit the hardest. The global shift to distance and online learning resulted in many less privileged communities losing their means of connection to education, and some of the gains made towards the goals of the Education 2030 agenda were lost. As a result, the 2023 GEM Report on technology and education due out July 26 in Montevideo comes at a critical moment to reflect on how to accelerate progress towards SDG 4.
Technology can enhance the learning experience, address educational challenges, and prepare learners for the jobs of the future. STEM education, in particular, is essential for promoting innovation and economic growth and equipping learners with the skills they need to succeed in the current technology-driven world. But it also raises concerns over privacy, data protection and sustainability.
The 2023 GEM Report will investigate the ongoing debates around technology and education. It will explore how technology addresses issues of access, equity and inclusion, quality and system management. It will also acknowledge that some of the proposed solutions may have negative consequences.
In this fast-changing world, technology is crucial in providing learners with access to a wide range of resources and information. With technology, learners can access educational materials from anywhere at any time, collaborate with peers, and engage in interactive learning activities that promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed concerns about the inequality in technology accessibility. In many parts of the world, young learners are not prepared for their future due to a lack of digital access in formal teaching and outdated curricula that don’t accommodate technology. To create a more inclusive, creative, and future-ready approach to learning, education systems must be transformed, which requires scaling up access to digital skills and decent infrastructure to ensure that no one is left behind.
A new partnership with Restless Development to mobilize youth globally will inform the 2023 Youth Report
We are pleased to announce the new partnership between Restless Developmentand the GEM Report to mobilize youth globally to reflect upon, question and debate the recommendations of the 2023 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report and inform the development of its youth edition. Building on the consultation findings with youth in the run up to the RewirED Forum in 2021 on technology, Restless Development will lead a series of youth-led regional consultations aiming to better understand the challenges and opportunities young people from around the world face when using technology in education and to hear their recommendations for policymakers.
The global consultation process will be officially launched on 26 April 2023 during a side-event at the ECOSOC Youth Forum in New York where youth activists and representatives will gather to discuss the themes that should be covered in the Youth Report. This is the first time that youth is involved in such early stages of the development of the report. Their views on the framing of recommendations for their region will be detailed and produced in the youth version of the 2023 GEM Report next to views from other regions and relating to the recommendations contained in the global GEM Report.
This first global consultation event will trigger a series of activities:
A global survey on the key issues that the Youth Report should address: Youth and student organizations will be able to choose from a series of themes linked to the recommendations of the global report: equity and inclusion, appropriateness, sustainability, and privacy among others.
A call for expressions of interest for youth organizations from around the world to organize regional and thematic consultations to inform the development of the Youth Report and take part in associated advocacy activities.
An online consultation to collect thoughts from youth from around the world on the themes that the report should cover and recommend projects and good practices on education technology to inform the report.
We invite you to consult this page to see all the ways in which you can be involved!
While there is no globally agreed definition of artificial intelligence, scientists largely share the view that technically speaking there are two broad categories of AI technologies: ‘artificial narrow intelligence’ (ANI) and ‘artificial general intelligence’ (AGI).
General-purpose artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, such as ChatGPT, are quickly transforming the way AI systems are built and deployed. While these technologies are expected to bring huge benefits in the coming years, spurring innovation in many sectors, their disruptive nature raises policy questions around privacy and intellectual property rights, liability and accountability, and concerns about their potential to spread disinformation and misinformation. EU lawmakers need to strike a delicate balance between fostering the deployment of these technologies while making sure adequate safeguards are in place.
Notion of general-purpose AI (foundation models)
While there is no globally agreed definition of artificial intelligence, scientists largely share the view that technically speaking there are two broad categories of AI technologies: ‘artificial narrow intelligence’ (ANI) and ‘artificial general intelligence’ (AGI). ANI technologies, such as image and speech recognition systems, also called weak AI, are trained on well-labelled datasets to perform specific tasks and operate within a predefined environment. By contrast, AGI technologies, also referred to as strong AI, are machines designed to perform a wide range of intelligent tasks, think abstractly and adapt to new situations. While only a few years ago AGI development seemed moderate, quick-paced technological breakthroughs, including the use of large language model (LLM) techniques have since radically changed the potential of these technologies. A new wave of AGI technologies with generative capabilities – referred to as ‘general purpose AI’ or ‘foundation models‘ – are being trained on a broad set of unlabelled data that can be used for different tasks with minimal fine-tuning. These underlying models are made accessible to downstream developers through application programming interface (API) and open-source access, and are used today as infrastructure by many companies to provide end users with downstream services.
Applications: Chat GPT and other general-purpose AI tools
In 2020, research laboratory OpenAI – which has since entered into a commercial partnership with Microsoft – released GPT-3, a language model trained on large internet datasets that is able to perform a wide range of natural language processing tasks (including language translation, summarisation and question answering). In 2021, OpenAI released DALL-E, a deep-learning model that can generate digital images from natural language descriptions. In December 2022, it launched its chatbot ChatGPT, based on GPT-3 and trained on machine learning models using internet data to generate any type of text. Launched in March 2023, GPT-4, the newest general-purpose AI tool, is expected to have even more applications in areas such as creative writing, art generation and computer coding.
General-purpose AI tools are now reaching the general public. In March 2023, Microsoft launched a new AI‑powered Bing search engine and Edge browser incorporating a chat function that brings more context to search results. It also released a GPT-4 platform allowing businesses to build their own applications (for instance for summarising long-form content and helping write software). Google and its subsidiary DeepMind are also developing general-purpose AI tools; examples include the conversational AI service, Bard. Google unveiled a range of generative AI tools in March 2023, giving businesses and governments the ability to generate text, images, code, videos, audio, and to build their own applications. Developers are using these ‘foundation models‘ to roll out and offer a flurry of new AI services to end users.
General-purpose AI tools have the potential to transform many areas, for example by creating new search engine architectures or personalised therapy bots, or assisting developers in their programming tasks. According to a Gartner study, investments in generative AI solutions are now worth over US$1.7 billion. The study predicts that in the coming years generative AI will have a strong impact on the health, manufacturing, automotive, aerospace and defence sectors, among others. Generative AI can be used in medical education and potentially in clinical decision-making or in the design of new drugs and materials. It could even become a key source of information in developing countries to address shortages of expertise.
Concerns and calls for regulation
The key characteristics identified in general-purpose AI models – their large size, opacity and potential to develop unexpected capabilities beyond those intended by their producers – raise a host of questions. Studies have documented that large language models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT, present ethical and social risks. They can discriminate unfairly and perpetuate stereotypes and social biases, use toxic language (for instance inciting hate or violence), present a risk for personal and sensitive information, provide false or misleading information, increase the efficacy of disinformation campaigns, and cause a range of human-computer interaction harms (such as leading users to overestimate the capabilities of AI and use it in unsafe ways). Despite engineers’ attempts to mitigate those risks, LLMs, such as GPT-4, still pose challenges to users’ safety and fundamental rights (for instance by producing convincing text that is subtly false, or showing increased adeptness at providing illicit advice), and can generate harmful and criminal content.
Since general-purpose AI models are trained by scraping, analysing and processing publicly available data from the internet, privacy experts stress that privacy issues arise around plagiarism, transparency, consent and lawful grounds for data processing. These models represent a challenge for education systems and for common-pool resources such as public repositories. Furthermore, the emergence of LLMs raises many questions, including as regards intellectual property rights infringement and distribution of copyrighted materials without permission. Some experts warn that AI-generated creativity could significantly disrupt the creative industries (in areas such as graphic design or music composition for instance). They are calling for incentives to bolster innovation and the commercialisation of AI-generated creativity on the one hand, and for measures to protect the value of human creativity on the other. The question of what liability regime should be used when general-purpose AI systems cause damage has also been raised. These models are also expected to have a significant impact on the labour market, including in terms of work tasks.
Against this backdrop, experts argue that there is a strong need to govern the diffusion of general-purpose AI tools, given their impact on society and the economy. They are also calling for oversight and monitoring of LLMs through evaluation and testing mechanisms, stressing the danger of allowing these tools to stay in the hands of just a few companies and governments, and highlighting the need to assess the complex dependencies between companies developing and companies deploying general-purpose AI tools. AI experts are also calling for a 6-month pause, at least, in the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT‑4.
General-purpose AI (foundation models) in the proposed EU AI act
EU lawmakers are currently engaged in protracted negotiations to define an EU regulatory framework for AI that would subject ‘high-risk’ AI systems to a set of requirements and obligations in the EU. The exact scope of a proposed artificial intelligence act (AI act) is a bone of contention. While the European Commission’s original proposal did not contain any specific provisions on general-purpose AI technologies, the Council has proposed that they should be considered. Scientists have meanwhile warned that any approach classifying AI systems as high-risk or not depending on their intended purpose would create a loophole for general purpose systems, since the future AI act would regulate the specific uses of an AI application but not its underlying foundation models.
In this context, a number of stakeholders, such as the Future of Life Institute, have called for general-purpose AI to be included in the scope of the AI act. Some academics favouring this approach have suggested modifying the proposal accordingly. Helberger and Diakopoulos propose to consider creating a separate risk category for general-purpose AI systems. These would be subject to legal obligations and requirements that fit their characteristics, and to a systemic risk monitoring system similar to the one under the Digital Services Act (DSA). Hacker, Engel and Mauer argue that the AI act should focus on specific high-risk applications of general-purpose AI and include obligations regarding transparency, risk management and non-discrimination; the DSA’s content moderation rules (for instance notice and action mechanisms, and trusted flaggers) should be expanded to cover such general-purpose AI. Küspert, Moës and Dunlop call for the general-purpose AI regulation to be made future-proof, inter alia, by addressing the complexity of the value chain, taking into account open-source strategies and adapting compliance and policy enforcement to different business models. For Engler and Renda, the act should discourage API access for general-purpose AI use in high-risk AI systems, introduce soft commitments for general-purpose AI system providers (such as a voluntary code of conduct) and clarify players’ responsibilities along value chains.
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