New information and communications technologies for education in Latin America: risks and opportunities
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Over the last two decades, new information and communications technologies (ICT) have been incorporated into education systems around the world, as a way of enhancing the learning experience. Latin American countries have over this time made great efforts not to be left behind in this global trend. The first school-oriented ICT policies and programmes began to emerge in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This process has been guided by the notion that ICT have the potential to alter the scenario in which they are introduced, and that they can facilitate the review and reformulation of prevailing practices, by promoting change and improvement in the structural conditions of education. The expectation has been that ICT would help meet the most important challenges that countries of the region face in the field of education. Those challenges include ensuring a highquality education, improving the efficiency of education systems and guaranteeing equity in the different dimensions of those systems. The main purpose of this paper is to present, in summary form, the process by which ICT are integrated and used in Latin American schools, taking an approach that has two distinctive traits. First, it views ICT as instruments for addressing the needs of the region's education systems. The point here is ICT for education and for development: ICT are not an end in themselves. Second, this perspective highlights both the opportunities and the risks that ICT pose for education. It does not attempt to prejudge the meaning or the direction of the change that ICT make when they are introduced in schools. It thus seeks to avoid an excessively optimistic view of the roles that ICT can play in education, and to introduce a more balanced view that pays attention to the risks inherent in the process. The paper is organized as follows. The first section summarizes the educational scenario in the region, with particular reference to the challenges present in this sphere. This is followed by a survey of the state of the art —the findings from research and the principal topics of discussion— with respect to the contribution that ICT have made in addressing challenges relating to the quality, effectiveness and equity of education. The third section looks at the current status of ICT in terms of education policies and strategies. This is followed by an analysis of educational progress with ICT, based on a model that distinguishes access, use, appropriation and outcomes. The paper concludes with some suggestions for making more effective use of ICT in education.