ICDE Keynote at ICE2017: A short analysis 


The ICDE Secretary General gave a keynote at the International Congress on Education for the 21st century, hosted by the Ministry of Education, Thailand and the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO).

It brought together diverse education actors and stakeholders representing the governments of SEAMEO Member Countries as well as public and private education institutions and agencies. The Congress was a platform for the participants to share new learning paradigms and practices, exchange their perspectives on current issues and concerns surrounding education in Southeast Asia and build regional consensus on how education can effectively contribute towards the promotion of human development at the community, country and regional level.

The keynote presentation provided at the congress can be viewed here.

Below is a short analysis in reference to the keynote presented.

Subtheme 4: Digital Learning in a Borderless World

Topic: Open Education and Digitalized Society

Through this brief presentation, I will provide a helicopter view on the World and South East Asia, SEA, when digitalisation is penetrating education. And raise the qustion: Could ambitious benchmarks be established for the 11 SEA countries and the cooperation among them?

Introduction - OER

Open Education Resources, OER, is an increasingly important part of Open Education - and has potential huge impact on achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 4, Education 2030 – but what is it?

On the surface, educational resources, including textbooks, and OER is the same – however, OER are licensed to be used extensively more than conventional educational resources, and that is expressed through the 5 Rs: Retain – Reuse – Revise – Remix and Redistribute.  In particular, the features revise and remix holds the great potential for innovation by co-creation, make learning material relevant and fuel innovation in education.

The new paradigm of lifelong learning

The new paradigm of lifelong learning is emerging in all parts of the world. Learners are of all types in all ages, and what was before non-traditional learners become the “new traditional” learners. What was before sequential, play-learn-work-retire, becomes more parallel, play-learn-job.

The future projections of the educated world, shows that in distance future (2080-2100) one expects a very low share of humans with no education, and more than 2/3with upper secondary or higher education. This is also a major shift, and it does not come for free.

For higher educations the projection for medium future is dramatic, up from 100 million students enrolled in 2000, rapid increasing to 200 million in 2015- many coming from Asia -  and more than doubling this number towards 2030. This will only be possible facilitated by technology and quality flexible learning.

Education 2030, the SDG4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning, both put the new learning paradigm of lifelong learning in the centre – and sett concrete targets through its Framework for Action.

OER and technology enhanced learning is in the core of the Framework – focusing on quality and learning.   

Measuring the achievements were published by UNESCO last autumn, and the results  for Southern Asia showed that the targets set for 2030, for primary and secondary education, would be met 2051 – 2087, 21 – 57 years to late. We can not live with a total change in the approach to education must take place. And for this we hold governments accountable.

The big change

We are moving into a big change whether we like it or not, caused by digitalisation, caused by technological development. To better understand this change, we can observe through history, starting with the industrial revolution, five previous waves of innovation, each more powerful than the previous. The sixth wave is very powerful, and brings new technologies – some examples below relevant for education:

  • Artificial intelligence, cognitive technologies and robotics

  • Neurotechnologies

  • Ubiquitous presence of linked sensors

  • New computing technologies

  • Virtual and augmented realities

Wikipedia describes the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, and impacting all disciplines, economies and industries.

This is followed by a rapid change in society and economy, e.g. from the information society to the connected society, from the knowledge economy to the knowledge intensive economy etc. 

For digitalisation, all what can be digitalised – will be. 

Trends and responses when digitalization happens

The era of digitalisation sets a new agenda for learning and teaching. While globalisation, technology and demography are major trends influencing all sectors of society, including higher education – ICDE observes more specific trends setting the agenda:

  • Online and open goes mainstream

  • OER and MOOCs fuel innovation in education

  • Shift to personalised learning and assessment

  • Convergence of education, cognitive psychology and neuroscience

  • Lack of funding and lack of understanding of the concept of online, open and flexible education – create hurdles

  • Skills and lifelong learning a new global trend, with learners in the centre, we enter the new paradigm of lifelong learning.

  • Quality first

How does ICDE respond on these trends?

The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) is the leading global membership organization for open, distance, flexible and online education, including e-learning, and draws its membership from institutions, educational authorities, international associations, commercial actors, and individuals. ICDE has members from all regions of the world, members that collaborate and network for inclusive, quality learning and teaching in the digital age.  Members are institutions that are engaged on flexible learning, or blended learning, online learning, open education, digital supported or technology enhanced learning, distance teaching or a combination of all this. This unique position, provides ICDE with a global outlook on current and emerging trends impact on the future for teaching and learning. 

ICDE has existed in almost 80 years, and has for almost 30 years been generously hosted by the Norwegian Government in Oslo, Norway. We have a more than 50 yesrs old partnership with UNESCO, and in challenging times as now, we partner on more issues than before and have an ICDE membership committed to the Sustainable Developments Goals, in particular number 4, Education 2030.

To set an example, ICDE also issue a scientific journal, Open Praxis, which is a platinum open access journal. 

ICDEs actions to respond to the 8 key trends are:

  • Awareness, advocacy, analysis related to digital, flexible and open, like now, in Bangkok.

  • Quality first

    • Global quality network

    • Partner with UNESCO for Quality in Higher Education

    • Global Doctoral Consortium

    • Map models for online, open and technology enhanced education

    • Knowledge exchange – clustering

      • Learning analytics

      • Collaborative online international learning COIL

      • Blended learning

      • OER and open initiatives

      • ICDE OER Chairs

      • Global Open Library? Connecting OER repositories

      • Aims for North-South-South initiatives, in collaboration with the Teachers Task Force/UNESCO

      • Events, conferences and webinars

You can view our events here.

And you can read more on our analysis and actions in the ICDE Strategic Plan 2017 – 2020, here.

South East Asia and the big change

What is the situation for South East Asian, SEA, countries when challenged by digitalisation?

First, the digital divide still exist and have to be bridged and closed.  25 – 75 of SEA population use the internet according to ITU.  Collaboration among the countries on this should have high priority.

When it comes to smartphone penetration the situation is better, according to PEW research. Malaysia is even one of the world leader in the use of smartphone. Indonesia and Thailand is catching up. Could mobile learning by smartphones be a leap frog thing for the SEA countries?

In its report on measuring the Information society, ITU has numbers on the ICT Development Index, IDI.  This index combine access, use and skills - and shows a positive and interesting picture for the SEA countries: they are mostly on the middle or upper part of the ranking. Most interesting is that all observed SEA countries  are climbing up on the ranking – they are catching up.

What about the future?

Well it seems bright – at least for economics according to a foresight from PWC. Vietnam and the Philippines are foreseen to climb the most on the ranking for economic growth toward 2050.  And having the global overview . all SEA countries are hot spots, with a foreseen faster growth than most other countries in the world, according to PWC.

But nothing comes for free, so what about education, which is foreseen to fuel this development?

Having the findings by UNESCO fresh in mind, on the possible poor achievements for basic and secondary education – the SEA countries are challenged. 

A benchmark for South East Asia?

The theme for the Conference is: “Making a Difference: Shaping a New Learning Paradigm for a Sustainable Southeast Asia”. A noble goal. How can you measure your achievements? Could it be an idea to benchmark your self towards one of the leading regions of the world?

I could choose the Nordic region since I know it well, and if you look on the table, many things are similar, the number of countries, the area, and the total gdp. But much is different, so it is a totally unfair and unbalanced comparison, look at the gdp per capita and the population, for example. However, both regions have an organisation for collaboration – the Nordic Cooperation and SEAMEO.

I think you have great opportunities – and that you can do! It is a question of will – and finding the right pathway. 

In the article “Where the Digital Economy Is Moving the Fastest” (Published in Harvard Business Review in February 2015, the authors suggest that countries can be devided in four groups when it comes to how they build their digital capacities. They syggest four groups where the names speak for it self:  Stand out, Break out, Watch out and Stall out. Most SEA countries are in the Break out, catching up.  The Nordic countries, all on top of the rankings, are in the Stall out – they are loosing pace.

Less than to weeks ago the digitalisation ministers for the Nordic and Baltic countries met and agreed on a new, very ambitious agenda to make the Nordic-Baltic region a digital frontrunner:

“1. Strengthening the ability for digital transformation of our governments and societies, especially by creating a common area for cross-border digital services in the public sector.

2. Strengthening the competitiveness of our enterprises through digitalisation.

3. Enhancing the digital single market in the Nordic-Baltic region.”

So the situation in the world is not static, it is dynamic, and the SEA countries must act to defend their populations interest.

For a benchmark,  testing yourself towards the Nordic region, I would suggest the following questions, among the SEAMEO countries, do you have:

  • A shared, common education area?

  • Mutual recognition of qualifications?

  • A shared area for free movement of knowledge?

  • A shared digital infrastructure

  • Aim for building a shared high capacity digital network for education and research?

  • Black fibre binding the countries together?

  • An aim for a SEA digital single market?

  • Ambitions to be lead countries when it comes to relative investments in Education?

  • A strategy for learning and teaching in the digital age?

  • The ambition to base education learning material on OER?

  • The ambition to agree to invest jointly across boarder in quality OER and translate?

  • The opportunity to leap frog on mobile and blended learning?

  • The opportunity to leap frog on OER?

What can we expect, what can we aim for, what is coming next?

Good teachers and rich content can make the big difference for good learning experience, the combination of next generation OER and the new technologies could provide a magic leap for learning.


The message I will suggest for all of us is:

  • Learners first. Learners are the future. Quality as priority 1.

  • Lead digital transformation.  Lead transformation of education for SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.

  • Go Open, Innovative and Collaborative.

NewsRita Chan