With the launch of its Education Initiative in 2013, the European Commission defined education as a key societal challenge and development priority in Europe. Its goal is to foster innovative ways of learning and teaching through new technologies and digital content, as a way of contributing to the Europe 2020 goals of boosting European competitiveness and growth through a better skilled workforce and more employment.
Building bridges with technology
This is particularly important in Romania, where some regional inequalities still exist in children’s access to education, leaving entire talent pools, and thus growth potential, untapped. The Romanian Government has made the objective of giving access to education for all children a priority: Among other things, it adopted a strategy for reducing early school leaving in 2015. “At the same time, local authorities launched projects to build infrastructures for creating and distributing educational content using the Internet,” explains Liviu Constandache, the technical coordinator of the various programs. “As a result, professors are able to create open educational resources and distribute them in a natural and simple manner.”
Virtual solutions for hard learning
It is in this context that Telekom Romania cooperated with Cisco and Webhit to develop a digital solution connecting 36 schools in six different counties – to give children in Romania’s rural areas access to the best classes and learning materials from various sources. In a country where the ICT infrastructure is modern and broadband coverage is available to around 90 percent of the population, the Group’s Romanian subsidiary and its partners are demonstrating how technology can improve the standard of education and offer equal access to it across all socio-economic groups.
The digital solutions implemented in the schools connect 10,000 children in the seventh, eighth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. In 20 of the 36 interconnected schools, telepresence centers have been set up to allow students to participate in lessons taking place at the other schools. Using an interactive digital blackboard, the children can follow the content of the class and edit it in real time. In addition, the lessons are recorded and made available to students on a dedicated online platform. In the other schools, a software application replaces the telepresence center and provides students in isolated areas with access to digital contents as well as putting them in contact with teachers in the big cities. This interconnectivity between schools also fosters communication among teachers, which benefits the children by improving the general quality of teaching materials and methods.
An initiative with measurable results
The program is a resounding success, and its impact is clearly measurable. For instance, the schools where these technologies were implemented recorded a significant rise in attendance rates, and reported that students were stimulated by the informal and interactive character of the digital lessons. Academic performance and competitiveness also improved drastically: In the county of Tulcea, for example, the schools that used these solutions saw their baccalaureate graduation rate jump from about 59 percent in 2014 to over 73 percent in 2015. “We hope that more and more schools from every county will join in,” says Ovidiu Ghiman, Chief Commercial Officer Business Segment at Telekom Romania. “The stakes are high: We’re talking about giving students access to a modern education, improving their performance and skills, and deepening their involvement at school.”