Incorporation of Information and Communication Technologies in Schools: The “Internet for Everyone” Project in Panama
From the Executive Summary:
For the Internet for Everyone Project to achieve the intended improvements in education, the Commission needs to look outward and create an environment that enables interested stakeholders in the private sector and civil socie ty to participate actively. When combined with careful analysis of lessons learned from similar projects in the region, this approach will give the IFEP a base of knowledge and resources upon which to build a sustainable program.
The recommendations include the following:
1. Improve the Institutional Platform: a. Autonomous Foundation: Funded by and in close coordination with the Minister of Education, a foundation would handle all the day to day maintenance of the labs and coordinate outside partnerships, community relations, content development, curriculum design, and teacher training. b. Implementing Agency: This may relieve some of the institutional burden from the Ministry but is contingent on uninterrupted support from the Ministry of Education and highly dedicated officials. This option is vulnerable to changes in government administrations which can jeopardize the long-term viability of the project. c. Reform current Ministry Structure : Improvements to the current structurecan significantly help the project. However, reforms will likely take time beyond that which is allocated for the project. In addition, even the most efficient Ministry will remain highly susceptible to changes in government administrations which can compromise the project in the long-run.
2. Increase Budget and Incentives for Teacher Training: At 4 percent, the current budget allocation for teacher training is far below the recommended level of 30 to 40 percent of total project costs. More time and resources should be dedicated to ensure teachers are adequately trained both on a basic technical level and in ways to integrate the use of the computers into the curriculum. To move this along, incentives need to be put in place to guarantee that teachers make an effort to both learn and incorporate the use of the lab.
3. Open the Labs to the Community: Allowing the community access to the labs and opening them up after school hours and during weekends and vacations will allow more people to benefit from the use of the systems. Increasing community participation can also carry indirect benefits in the areas of maintenance, secur ity, and community development.
4. Create Paid Staff Positions to Supervise Labs: Specifically designated staff should be created who are responsible for keeping the labs functioning and ensuring that they are being integrated effectively.
5. Increase Partnerships with Civil Society: This will allow organizations with strengths in training, community participation, content, and curriculum development to contribute to the project. Incentive-driven partnerships will help ensure desired outcomes and long-term sustainability.