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2023 GEM Report consultation

Technology and education

As recognised in the Incheon Declaration, the achievement of SDG 4 is dependent on opportunities and challenges posed by technology, an emphasis that was deepened by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology appears in six out of the ten targets in the fourth Sustainable Development goal on education. These references are out of recognition that technology affects education through five distinct channels: input, means of delivery, skill, tools for planning, social and cultural context.

Take part in the online consultation for the 2023 GEM Report on technology

There are often bitter divisions in how the role of technology is viewed, however. These divisions are widening as the world of technology is evolving at breakneck speed. The new concept note (English / Français / Español / Русский / العربية / 汉语) for the 2023 GEM Report, developed with the help of a think-piece by Mary Burns, details how the publication will explore these debates.

Join our consultation using the comments section below to provide feedback on this concept note, suggest relevant evidence for the theme or new areas of research to be explored.

Technology refers to the application of scientific knowledge in any sphere of life. Education is commonly associated with applications of information and communications technology, known as education technology, which will be the main focus of this report. But other technologies – construction, energy and transportation – also have relevant applications in education.

The 2023 GEM Report will examine education challenges to which appropriate use of technology can offer solutions, while recognizing that many of the solutions proposed may also be detrimental.

  • It will examine issues of access, equity and inclusion in education, looking at ways through technology can help reach disadvantaged learners but also ensure moreknowledge reaches more learners in more engaging and cheaper formats.
  • It will focus on how quality can be improved, both in terms of teaching and learning basic skills, engaging and motivating learners, and in terms of relevance, ensuring the development of the digital skills needed in daily life.
  • It will address the challenge of technology development, noting the role of technical, vocational and higher education institutions in national strategies for technological development, employment and economic growth. 
  • Finally, it will recognize the role of technology in system management with special reference to assessment and other education management data that can be widely used for planning.

The report will also explore three system-wide conditions that need to be met for any technology in education to reach its full potential:

  • Ensure that all learners have access to technology resources.
  • Protect learners from the risks of technology through appropriate governance and regulation.
  • Support all teachers to teach, use and deal with technology effectively.

Within the framework described above, the 2023 GEM Report will ask the following five questions, the answers to which will provide a comparative evidence base from which to draw recommendations:

  • What do we know about the role of technology in addressing each of the education challenges identified with respect to access, equity and inclusion; quality; technology promotion; and system management?
  • What do we know about the potential negative impacts of technology on education challenges in each of these areas?
  • How do countries facilitate access to technology to ensure there are no gaps between different learners and schools?
  • How do education systems embed the use of technology through reforming curricula, redesigning learning materials and supporting teachers?
  • How can the negative consequences of the use of technology be addressed in education and in the way they impact education?

New descriptive analysis captured in country profiles on a range of laws and policies related to technology in education will feature in the PEER website and will complement the report.

As per the new concept note, this framework presents the early thinking of the team in preparation for the 2023 GEM Report. Please join the consultation using the comments section below or emailing us on We invite you to:

  • Provide substantive feedback to the proposed lines of research.
  • Recommend evidence-based examples from around the world that illustrate beneficial and harmful impacts of technology, and solutions to challenges found in different education systems.
  • Recommend potential areas of new research drawing on already established or previously unexplored sources of quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Recommend policy areas on technology and education that PEER country profiles could focus on alongside the Report

In the coming days, there will be a call for expressions of interest on background papers for selected areas of the 2023 GEM Report.

19 thoughts on “2023 GEM Report consultation

  1. Dear GEM Report team,

    Congratulations on the release of your concept note!

    I wanted to take the time to share references with evidence-based examples of beneficial and harmful impacts of technology. Below, you can find a range of examples relating to access, equity and inclusion; quality; technology promotion; and system management.

    Access, equity, and inclusion

    Allier-Gagneur, Z., Chuang, R., McBurnie, C., & Haßler, B. (2020). Using Blended Learning to Support Marginalised Adolescent Girls’ Education: A Review of the Evidence (Helpdesk Response No. 25). EdTech Hub.

    Baloch, I., Kaye, T., Koomar, S., & McBurnie, C. (2020). Pakistan Topic Brief: Providing Distance Learning to Hard-to-reach Children (EdTech Hub Helpdesk Response No. 17). EdTech Hub.

    Fab Inc. Getting all children into school: The Sierra Leone story. (2021, July 26). ArcGIS StoryMaps

    Haßler, B., Nicolai, S., McBurnie, C., Jordan, K., Wilson, S., & Kreimeia, A. (2020). EdTech and COVID-19 response [Save Our Future] (Background Paper No. 3; #SaveOurFuture). Education Commission.

    McBurnie, C., Adam, T., & Kaye, T. (2020). Is there Learning Continuity during the COVID-19 Pandemic? A Synthesis of the Emerging Evidence. Journal of Learning for Development, 7(3), 485–493.

    McBurnie, C., Adam, T., Kaye, T., & Haßler, B. (2020). Zero-rating educational content in low- and middle-income countries (Helpdesk Response No. 8). EdTech Hub

    McBurnie, C., Swaray, A., & Kamara, B. (2021). Sierra Leone Series: the Pikin-to-Pikin Movement and its focus on child protection, education, nutrition and health [Blog post]. EdTech Hub.
    Quality (especially basic skills and pedagogy)

    Allier-Gagneur, Z., McBurnie, C., Chuang, R., & Haßler, B. (2020). Characteristics of effective teacher education in low- and middle-income countries: What are they and what role can EdTech play? (Helpdesk Response No. 10B).

    Koomar, S., Allier-Gagneur, Z., & McBurnie, C. (2020). Effective Teacher Education in Low-Connectivity Settings: A Curated Resource List (Helpdesk Response No. 21). EdTech Hub.

    McBurnie, C. (2020). The use of virtual learning environments and learning management systems during the COVID-19 pandemic (EdTech Hub Helpdesk Request No. 7). EdTech Hub.

    McBurnie, C., Moriba, S., & Brainard, P. (2021, March). Sierra Leone series: Freetown Teachers College and its multimodal approach to teacher professional development [Blog post]. EdTech Hub.

    Saidu, A., Casado, E. R., Shergill, M., & McBurnie, C. (2021, March 26). Sierra Leone series: Plan International and the importance of community support for distance teacher professional development programmes. EdTech Hub.

    System management

    McBurnie, C. (2021). Navigating the ‘Data Revolution’: A Case Study on the One Tablet Per School Programme in Sierra Leone (Working Paper No. 12). EdTech Hub.

    McBurnie, C., Beoku-Betts, I., Waistell, D., & Nallo, M. (2021). Advancing Data-driven Decision-making for School Improvement: Findings from the One Tablet Per School User Testing Programme in Sierra Leone [Working paper]. MBSSE, EdTech Hub, Leh Wi Lan.

    Separately, I strongly recommend that you explore the use of geospatial data in education as a new area of research. To date, my favourite recent publications include Daniel Rodrigeuz-Segura and Brian Kim’s paper on mapping education deserts in developing countries, GRID3’s report on school catchment area planning in Sierra Leone, and GRID3’s publication on radio transmitter coverage (for the national radio teaching programme) in Sierra Leone.

    As you will note, I have been involved in most, if not all, of the above publications so please feel free to reach out with any questions or requests for further evidence.

    Best wishes,



  2. I really enjoyed reading the concept note with interesting points and an expansive focus. I would like to us for a more comprehensive integration of gender and how this impacts access to technology and hence learning, community attitudes, as well as considering wider purposes that technology plays for facilitating safe and empowering learning in this emergency setting. For example,

    – Access: In our girls education project based in Zimbabwe, we saw that although 55% of girls initially reported access to phone usage in March 2020. When we established phone-based services, initially only 24% were able to join sessions. Many of the girls transpired to be “secondary” users, so their caregivers/partners/husbands owned the phone and the access they hoped for was not possible when the primary users were at at work, out or denied access to the phones. We have also experienced considerable issues with connectivity, with girls in border regions particularly worse off. This presents an illusion of access but the reality is more challenging – would be good to highlight this within “Access, Equity and Inclusion”
    – Access: can be hindered by negative community attitudes, with families/caregivers/husbands hesitant for young girls to be given access to technology as this opens up access to social media and possibly unmonitored interactions. Shifting community attitudes takes time, with a delay increasing the digital divide as technology usage ramps up. How can the Education sector ensure community participation in the update of edtech?
    – Positive impact for gender empowerment: Technology can be useful in challenging barriers to girls education and improving empowerment which can aid girls access to education, for example, by providing peer-to-peer forums, information on accessing health and protection services and linking campaigners and activists. Please see some of Plan International’s publications: or


    1. For quite sometime, l have been at the centre of the education provision for those untracked by formal education. I would be happy to take part as you explore technology in educational provision.


  3. Dear GEM Report Team
    I and my colleagues at CGA Technologies (, part of the Corus International ( family, are excited about the 2023 Technology and Education report.

    There is lots to welcome in the Concept Note and Think Piece.

    I think the focus of the Concept Note and the Think Piece might need to rebalance (this is a matter of degree not absolute) from:

    • technology for/in learning, towards technology for/in education provision and systems, including but not limited to:
    o education finance and supply management
    o education management information, particularly of the disaggregate and/or real-time variety,
    o system accountability
    o and school management information systems
    o the role of technology in supporting access to and operation of a physical/classic education system
    schooling is not necessarily learning, but the advantages of schooling, particularly when accompanied by learning
    • LMICs (which in the think piece are said to be used interchangeably with “Global South”), rather than LDCs/FCAS: where in fact some of the greatest opportunities exist for technology for education to leap over distance, and offer ‘last mover advantage’ to catch up
    • Bespoke platform approaches towards using existing parts of the global technology ecosystems (whatsapp, facebook, youtube etc)

    Looking forward to being involved in the process!


    Charlie Goldsmith
    Senior Technical Adviser
    CGA Technologies Ltd


  4. Thank you for the background document and the concept note. It seems to me that both could pay more attention to the tradeoffs and the costs involved in wide scale technology implementation for formal education. Cost-effective technology implementations are both historically and contemporaneously more often promises and hopes than realisations, as are enhancement of learning outcomes. I also note that the most pessimistic OECD publication about technologies (Innovating Education and Educating for Innovation:THE POWER OF DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES AND SKILLS 2016) did not find its way into Mary Burns’ bibliography.


  5. Congratulations for sharing this great piece of work ‘Concept Note and Think Piece’ and inviting comments. The concept note is very informative and interesting to read.It has covered substantial areas in the field of education and technology. However, i suggest we also consider the student in terms of emotional,social,adversary and intelligence quotients. Just as we have individual differences in physical classes same applies to online classes and this can be addressed if we are to achieve inclusive education. In low income countries we still leave behind learners who have various disabilities when it comes to technology. Finally the average mind set of the teachers need to be overhauled through training and motivation. This will enhance adaptability of technology in education at all levels


  6. Technology and Education_GEM Report

    • What do we know about the role of technology in addressing each of the education challenges identified with respect to access, equity and inclusion; quality; technology promotion; and system management?
    The 2019/2020 lockdown across the world in response to the Covid-19 pandemic was an important watershed in education and the use of technology in education worldwide. For us in Nigeria, the lockdown exposed the weaknesses in conventional education programming and administration in the country. The crucial weakness was the obvious lack of access (inadequate classrooms, poor school infrastructure, lack of teachers and poor quality of teachers). This was tragic as these lapses were supposedly the foundation upon which the technology-assisted education activities were to be deployed. In Nigeria, rural communities (anything outside state capitals) were completely cut off as basic technology like television and radio signals were not available in most communities. Mobile telephone services including mobile data and internet services were not available or available on such low bandwidth that could not support the deployment of online, television or radio classes and lessons for children.
    • What do we know about the potential negative impacts of technology on education challenges in each of these areas?
    While children in urban centres/schools who had already been enjoying better access and quality education could continue their education through online classes and other digital options, children in these rural areas were completely left out. When schools finally opened up towards the end of 2020, there was national confusion as to what to do with the unequal access to and provision of education that had gone on during the lockdown. Some states continued instructions from where they had stopped physical classes in 2019, others assumed all had gone to school during the lockdown and jumped school terms/sessions. The system is still trying to cope with these differences and get the school calendar back on track
    • How do countries facilitate access to technology to ensure there are no gaps between different learners and schools?
    For Nigeria, facilitating equal access to technology to all learners and schools is tied to the inability of the state to provide basic infrastructure for development and for education. The absence of roads, classrooms, poor teacher training and weak accountability in education monitoring and management has been shown to be major setbacks in the deployment of broadband internet and radio signals particularly to rural areas where the majority of learners and schools exist.
    • How do education systems embed the use of technology through reforming curricula, redesigning learning materials and supporting teachers?
    As noted above, for Nigeria, this will require bringing the education system up to speed with basic infrastructure, improving teacher training and improving school supervision, monitoring and accountability at the basic level. This is required in the first instance to set the pace and prepare the system for the demands and flexibility of technology-driven education. Secondly, the curricula need to be reviewed to remove the existing redundancies and streamline teaching and learning to meet specific and measurable learning goals. The absence of a unified learning assessment model especially at the basic education level means teachers and education administrators are at loss or not interested in providing teaching and instruction that meets standards and benchmarks (ironically these do not even exist!). Technically, there is just no point or purpose in teaching and learning as policies regarding standards and benchmarks and assessments are at best nonexistent.
    • How can the negative consequences of the use of technology be addressed in education and in the way they impact education?
    The major consequence of the use of technology for education in Nigeria as noted above is the unequal access and exclusion it creates. A large number of children are already cut off from accessing education through the traditional classroom method. Moving ahead with technology without addressing these existing gaps will mean the further exclusion of children with access and the ones in the traditional classrooms without good teaching and learning facilities, without qualified teachers and without access to electricity and internet and other digital/multimedia technology/services.


  7. Dear GEM report team,
    Thank you for sharing the Concept Note and Thinkpiece, which identify access, equity and inclusion as a key concern for the GEM 2021 report. Though language is briefly mentioned in both documents, language must be further explored as a factor of exclusion to ensure that the report adequately addresses challenges of access, equity and inclusion in education and ed tech.

    These challenges boil down to two central shortcomings:
    • Failure to track educational outcomes against language of the learner
    • Ed tech continues to exclude learners who use marginalized languages

    Research (1) around the world shows that educational outcomes are worse for students studying in a second language and the use of an unfamiliar language is linked to high dropout rates and low academic achievement. We also know that 40% of children worldwide (2) are not educated in a language they speak at home. Research in Bangladesh (3) and Nigeria (4) challenges assumptions commonly made by governments, donors and aid organizations about teachers’ command of official and national languages. Education in a second language, mother-tongue-based education, or child-centered education is also less likely to be effective if it doesn’t have the support of parents. Yet in contexts from Mozambique (5) to Cox’s Bazar (3), language barriers can make it harder for parents to understand unfamiliar educational approaches. The UN’s High Level Panel on Internal Displacement acknowledged language as one of many barriers (6) displaced children face.

    Despite this evidence on the importance of language in education, in emergencies a failure to collect data on the languages of school children and their communities means education providers are largely unable to gauge the impact of language gaps or to measure educational outcomes against mother tongue.

    In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, many providers have scaled up remote learning support, but provision has focused on a relatively small number of international and regional languages. There is currently no data on the impact of this on educational access and learning outcomes for children with other first languages, and no comparison of the ‘translanguaging’ (language bridging) effectiveness of human teachers and ed tech tools for children taught in a second or third language.

    Some key questions the report should seek to address are:
    • How are educational outcomes in emergencies affected by differences between the child’s first language and language of instruction?
    • What aspects of educational policy and practice influence outcomes for children learning in a second language in emergencies?
    • Specifically, what impact do established translanguaging practices, teacher training in the teacher’s first language, provision of learning materials in first and second languages, parent-teacher communication, and the use of ed tech have on those outcomes?
    • How has tech bridged the language gap in distance learning in EiE?



  8. I appreciate your initiative. I would like to suggest indigenous peoples could be involved in the program to promote and protect the right of education by mainstreaming the technology fostering their education. I raise this because they have no access to inclusive education.


  9. Dear GEM Report Team,

    thank you for inviting public comments on your Concept Note and Thinkpiece. I am adding a few thoughts on issues I have not seen covered in the current draft or heard being discussed at the recent live consultation events.

    1, In addition to equity, access and inclusion, I suggest consulting research studies that documented the added learning value of EdTech for typically as well as atypically children in distinct learning domains. The technology mechanisms supporting this type of learning are, among others, contingent and individualized feedback.

    2, One might argue that equity subsumes inclusion. If you need to select three main benefits, I would suggest personalization. Unlike analogue resources and in-person support, technologies provide data-informed personalized recommendations that in some circumstances, outperform human judgment (in terms of objectivity and diversity of recommended content).

    3, Engagement and enjoyment are important precursors for learning. Creative, open-ended technologies can motivate students to learn more than analogue/traditional resources. At times of post-pandemic re-adjustment to the school situation, this aspect should not be underestimated.

    I am happy to provide scholarly references or elaborate on any of the issues mentioned above.

    Natalia Kucirkova (Professor of Children’s Development at The Open University)


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