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This episode will run February 10, 2024 at 10 am EST.

Can Technology Transform Education in Southeast Asia? with Manos Antonisis, Director, Global Education Monitoring Report UNESCO, Mary Burns, Expert in technology and author of the thinkpiece for the 2023 GEM Report, and John Arnold S. Siena, Deputy Director for Programme and Development from the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) 

More about our guests and the episode below the video:


Southeast Asia has placed high priority on technological reform for socioeconomic development. There are now some 400 million internet users in the region; in 2020, about 40 million went online for the first time. in 2021, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam had the highest growth rate of new learners with almost 3 million enrollments in Coursera, a massive open online course provider.

The Global Education Monitoring Report hosted by UNESCO and the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) released a special report on November 2023 analyzing the challenges and opportunities for the use of technology in education in Southeast Asia. Launched at a high level event attended by ministries, partners, and stakeholders, the report cautions that benefits for learners from these developments have been uneven, varying by community, socioeconomic level and teacher preparedness. Students from the richest households in the region are almost eight times more likely to be connected at home than the poorest students. Only half of rural primary schools are connected to the internet.

The report asks whether technology can solve the most important challenges in education, which include:

  • In terms of equity and inclusion, while technology helps lower costs to access education, internet connectivity at home is highly unequal by wealth and location, and less than half of rural schools in the region have internet.
  • In terms of quality, digital technology can enliven student experiences and facilitate learner collaboration.Yet rigorous evidence of its impact is rare. While new technology may overcome some constraints, it brings its own problems, including increased screen time and risks to children’s privacy.
  • Improvements to efficiency may be the most promising, whether by freeing up time for more meaningful education activities or by generating large volumes of valuable data. However, each tool has major implications in terms of regulation and capacity development.

The  report states that three conditions need to be met for technology’s potential to be fulfilled: equitable access to technology, appropriate governance and regulation, and sufficient teacher capacity.


#2023GEMReport #TechOnOurTems

Key questions

  1. Access to and the use of education technology is characterized by inequality. The costs of electricity, internet connection, hardware and software are high and often underestimated. How can governments ensure that technology benefits all learners regardless of their background?
  2. Technology is gradually changing the teaching profession in Southeast Asia, requiring teachers to adapt their pedagogy and interact more with students and parents. What examples of good practices can be highlighted and what challenges remain?
  3. Under certain conditions, the use of technology in education can enhance children’s opportunities to learn, but technology can also be harmful to the physical and mental integrity, privacy, and dignity of users. Intellectual property, data privacy and online safety are critical challenges that countries need to address. In response some Southeast Asian countries have issued data protection laws and regulated online safety. How does the region compare with others?


Episode Guests

Manos Antoninis is the Director of the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report since 2017. He was previously responsible for the monitoring section of the report. He coordinated the financing gap estimates for the 2030 education targets, the projections on the achievement of universal primary and secondary education completion, and the World Inequality Database on Education. He has been representing the report team in the Technical Cooperation Group on SDG 4 indicators, which he is currently co-chairing.

Prior to joining the team he worked for 10 years on public finance, monitoring and evaluation projects in education including: a public expenditure tracking and service delivery survey of secondary education provision in Bangladesh; the evaluation of a basic education project in the western provinces of China; the mid-term evaluation of the Education For All Fast Track Initiative; the annual reporting of progress in the implementation of the Second Primary Education Development Project in Bangladesh; a basic education capacity building programme in six states in Nigeria; the evaluation of an in-service, cluster-based teacher training programme in Pakistan; and the country study of the Out of School Children Global Initiative in Indonesia. He holds a DPhil in Economics for a study of technical education and the labour market in Egypt, completed at the Centre for the Study of African Economies of the University of Oxford.

Mary Burns is a senior expert in teacher professional development, online learning, instruction, curriculum development, and educational technology and has won awards for teaching, research, and curriculum design. She is often invited by universities, ministries of education, private schools, education foundations, and donor agencies to help them conceptualize and design programs, train staff, and deliver keynote addresses. Burns’s work has traversed every level of the education system, from policy development to program design and implementation to directly supporting teachers in classrooms. A practitioner who also does research, Burns has authored four books and almost 200 blog posts, articles, book chapters, and peer-reviewed articles on teacher professional development, both with and without technology. Previously, she was a teacher and a school-based coach. She is now working as a Professor at the Escola Superior de Educação de Paula Frassinetti in Porto.

John Arnold S. Siena has had a long experience in the field of education starting as a classroom teacher for more than a decade teaching English and Journalism subjects in high school and some professional subjects in the graduate level. Having been recognized for his teaching competence and leadership potential, he rose from the ranks and eventually held executive positions in the Department of Education in the Philippines culminating in his appointment as Director IV (equivalent to Director General) for teacher professional development. His areas of interest include learning and development, organizational development, L and D  program monitoring and evaluation. He is a founding member of the Teacher Professional Development (TPD) @ Scale Coalition for the Global South.