|Photo credit: MICT/Colombia
In Colombia, the Computadores para Educar programme
is reducing social divides and improving educational
quality in the country by incorporating information
and communication technologies (ICT) into basic and intermediate
public education. This social programme, set
up by the Ministry of Information and Communication
Technologies and the Ministry of Education, was evaluated
in a study conducted by Universidad de los Andes
in 2010. The results are clear: ICT have a positive impact
on educational quality and academic achievement.
Provided that teachers are properly trained, students are
more likely to move ahead to higher education, and social
disparities will be reduced.
The Ministry of Information and Communication
Technologies’ Plan Vive Digital for the expansion of
broadband technology is now taking up the challenge of
increasing the reach and magnitude of Computadores
para Educar. “Since Computadores para Educar
reached our school, there have been some remarkable
changes: the children are happy to come into the classroom
and the teacher finds it easy to transmit knowledge”,
says Héctor José López Quintero, a teacher.
ICT and education
Over the past ten years, the Computadores para
Educar programme has found ways to adjust its management
model in the field, not only to make the programme
more efficient and to improve the cost–benefit
ratio, but also to make it more inclusive and sustainable
for the community. This has also brought environmental
and economic benefits, for example through the reconditioning
and maintenance of old computers, and the
efficient management of electronic waste.
From 2000 to 2010, Computadores para Educar
provided 291 261 computers to 20 673 public schools
(more than 53 per cent of all schools in Colombia), offering
ICT access to almost 6 million children (65 per cent
of children enrolled in the public system). Educational
training was provided in 11 135 schools, enhancing
the competence of 43 986 teachers (15 per cent of
the total number of teachers in the country). A total
of 78 327 computers were reconditioned, avoiding the
disposal of more than 4000 tons of electronic waste.
The total social investment made by Computadores
para Educar to groups in need in Colombia amounts to
some USD 172 million over ten years. This investment
has generated a social return of 2.4 times that amount.
Eliminating social exclusion
Plan Vive Digital aims to eliminate social exclusion
in Colombia by guaranteeing access to ICT to the entire
population of the educational sector by 2014. The plan
seeks to provide connectivity, together with capacity
for use, so that learning environments are enriched. It
also seeks new forms of access to knowledge, and contributes
to knowledge production. Plan Vive Digital will
benefit not only public educational institutions, but also
cultural centres and public libraries across the country.
Protecting the environment
Plan Vive Digital, through Computadores para
Educar, offers a model for the integral management
of electronic waste, complementing its strategy for reconditioning
and assembling computers. Thousands of
tons of outdated computers and terminals have been
saved from inappropriate forms of open-air disposal or
discharge into landfills, which would have had serious
environmental consequences because of the hazardous
waste they contain.
Maintenance and support
When the computers are delivered to their recipients,
they come with a one-year guarantee. Computadores
para Educar offers a preventive and corrective maintenance
service to prolong the useful life of the equipment
and to guarantee the sustainability of educational
processes initiated with the introduction of ICT. The idea
is to generate a culture of use and care of computers.
But it is not enough just to deliver educational tools
to schools. An entire process of training and support
is needed to ensure that the tools are used effectively.
Strategies are needed to incorporate ICT in the most
effective way into the educational processes of each individual
|Photo credit: MICT/Colombia
|Children make robots with waste materials
Technology reinforces traditional teachers
The integration of computers into pedagogical processes
promotes collaborative learning, creativity, new
ideas, and the personal and professional growth of students
and teachers alike. This has a positive impact on
the development and productivity of communities.
But simply providing access to ICT does not guarantee
a real improvement in educational quality.
Therefore, more than six years ago, Computadores para Educar started to train teachers and managers in order
to improve not only their technological competences,
but also their basic skills. In particular, the scheme supports
the teaching of natural sciences, mathematics and
social sciences. “There are the dynamics and personal
relationships, because we have made the ICT room a
space for coexistence and for the development of values”,
says Héctor José López Quintero.
The training of teachers in the use of new technologies
is what turns the teacher into a dynamic agent,
able to develop creative and innovative qualities among
students by using technological tools. In fact, technology
reinforces the valuable work of traditional teaching.
The scheme also promotes community development.
Producing useful products creates wealth for the
population living around the schools that benefit from
Computadores para Educar.
According to research published in 2010 by the
Centre for Studies on Economic Development of
Universidad de los Andes, Computadores para Educar
has a positive and measurable impact on students in
schools. Students from disadvantaged groups are less
likely to drop out, more likely to achieve better academic
results, more likely to move ahead to higher education,
and can expect higher levels of income when they
move into employment.
The research suggests that the use of ICT in education
reduces the gaps in knowledge between rural and
urban pupils, and between boys and girls. It benefits
the poorest students and those with parents who have
the lowest level of education. There is evidence that the
educational use of ICT increases the possibility of access
to higher education among the poorest groups.
Educational policy can be a decisive factor in inclusion
and social mobility. In particular, the use of ICT in
education, along with appropriate support and training,
has the potential to reduce social and regional
|Photo credit: MICT/Colombia
|Electronic waste materials are recovered and used as raw materials
Facing the challenge of full coverage
The Computadores para Educar programme is ready
to be rolled out to every public school in Colombia. But
there are two major reasons why this cannot happen
First, there are more than 11 500 schools, covering
almost 1 million children, in the most vulnerable regions
of Colombia. One difficulty is that the children in these
schools have never had the opportunity to see or touch
a computer. An even greater difficulty is that 89 per
cent of these schools have only 20 students, and 70 per
cent do not even have electricity.
Second, there is the more general problem that
60 per cent of the teachers in public schools do not
know how best to take advantage of ICT as an educational
tool. Thus, there is a need to increase the coverage
of pedagogical training in ICT.
Research done by Universidad de los Andes has
confirmed that the use of ICT in education, coupled
with the support and training strategy developed by
Computadores para Educar, will have a positive and
quantifiable effect in reducing social and regional disparities
by contributing to improvements in educational
quality, reductions in drop-out rates and increasing the
probability that young people in public schools will be
admitted to higher education.
The challenge in Colombia over the next four years is
to roll out the Computadores para Educar programmes
to 100 per cent of the 43 000 public schools. In effect,
the challenge is to reach the 11 500 schools where
students have never had access to ICT, and to provide
technological training to all teachers who deal with digital
competences. The impact of ICT in Colombia will increase
by a significant order of magnitude if the benefits
of the Computadores para Educar ICT programme can
be extended to all the schools in the country.
* This article is adapted from “WSIS success stories 2011”,
published by ITU in May 2011.