In January 2023, two primary schools in Conakry, Guinea, embarked on a journey to re-imagine their day-to-day education through technology. The students accessed classroom content through the Learning Passport (LP), a cutting-edge digital learning platform that is currently deployed in 36 countries worldwide including in development and humanitarian settings.
In resource-constrained environments like Guinea, digital learning initiatives typically place a lot of focus on technology-related concerns -- such as procuring devices in large quantities, installing connectivity at school, or fixing electric boards. Absorbed by these preoccupations, programme managers and government officers focus less on supporting schools to manage changes linked with introducing technology in the classroom, which is nonetheless as critical as technology.
Educational technology is not a “plug-and-play” solution. In order to harness the potential of digital learning for building foundational and digital skills through personalized content, schools must adjust their everyday classroom activities. However, the time and resources that it takes to do so is often-underestimated. Guinea’s tale of two classrooms illustrates what is needed -- beyond technology -- to make digital learning work for children’s learning.
Technology As a Bottleneck…And a Solution
Guinea's 2020-2029 National Education Plan recognizes digital learning as a pivotal driver for advancing quality education in the country. According to a 2019 assessment, 55 per cent of Guinean children did not achieve minimum competency in reading at the end of their primary schooling cycle, and 68 per cent of children performed below the expected grade-level competences in mathematics.
To address this learning crisis, the LP provides access to literacy and numeracy courses that were specifically developed for Guinean third and fourth graders. These resources were validated by the National Institute for Research and Pedagogical Action (INRAP), Guinea’s accreditation body, ensuring full alignment with the national curriculum.
"The effectiveness of an education system depends on the quality of educational inputs such as the use of learner-centered pedagogical innovations," commented Guillaume Hawing, Guinea’s Minister of Education, who included the LP among the “Priority Projects” of his department. "With UNICEF support, the Government of Guinea is firmly committed to improving teaching and developing learning tools through the implementation of the Learning Passport. This platform, which allows students and teachers to improve their skills, is a real opportunity to help ensure that every child has access to quality education," added Félix Ackebo, UNICEF Representative in Guinea.
In a country where only 22 per cent of the population uses the internet, the LP provides offline access to these educational resources. Content was pre-downloaded onto tablets provided by UNICEF. However, simply providing technology is insufficient.
So, what can Guinea’s tale of two classrooms teach us about using technology to support students’ learning?
Photo A. In this classroom, up to six students share the same screen.