Digital technologies are an essential part of modern education in the world, but in Ukraine, the market of electronic educational content is still poorly developed. The Concept for reforming general secondary education in Ukraine provides for the introduction of a modern educational environment, in particular the electronic one. During 2018, it is planned to create a national e-platform, develop the first e-textbooks*, distance learning courses for pupils and advanced training courses for teachers. However, numerous technical, regulatory and financial barriers slow down the process. In particular, this is the inefficient state control in the sector, the lack of proper Internet access and poor technological infrastructure of most schools.
For example, while the state budget for 2018 provides for 732 million UAH for paper textbooks, there are only 40.9 million UAH for the electronic ones. It is expected that the funds will be spent not only to develop e-textbooks, but also to purchase the necessary equipment (tablets, netbooks, etc.). According to the Institute of Educational Analytics, only 5.6 thousand, or 34%, out of 16 thousand institutions of secondary education in the country are equipped with more than 20 computers.
The government, business public and expert community representatives discussed the market issues during the Roundtable “New Quality of Education through Digital Technologies: Prospects for the E-Learning Market in Ukraine” on May 17. The event was organized by the BRDO Office with the support of EU4Business/FORBIZ as part of the Public Dialogue #PRODialogue.
“Reforming the education sector plays a key role in the development of the digital economy and society. According to the new Law “On Education”, the state should provide all schoolchildren and teachers with textbooks, including the electronic ones, free of charge. In this regard, there are two important aspects: firstly, modern digital content and its quality and secondly, the national e-platform, which should become a multifunctional and flexible for introducing e-learning. Modern technologies in schools will motivate children to study and develop practical skills and competencies,” the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine Lilia Hrynevych said.
According to the BRDO, the current volume of the market of electronic educational content is small and amounts to only 14.1 million UAH. Notice that only 176 thousand of 3.9 million schoolchildren use electronic educational services. Given the low purchasing power of the population, the government order and a model of its purchasing by the state may promote the development of the market of digital educational content similar to the traditional markets of educational materials.
“The market requires a clear state policy along with a clear strategy on digital educational technologies – a road map that will allow businesses to plan activities and develop innovative products. Parallel steps include providing the necessary technical equipment in schools, making electronic educational materials available and encouraging teachers to use digital technologies. The world practice shows that countries with advanced educational systems such as inland, Switzerland, Singapore, Korea and Uruguay keep ahead of other countries in terms of economic development,” the BRDO’s IT Sector Head Oleksandr Kubrakov said.
The full implementation of e-learning is also hindered by regulatory requirements outside the educational sphere. In particular, sanitary rules and standards approved by the Ministry of Health limit the number of lessons with the use of technical training equipment to 4 lessons per week for elementary school students and to 6 lessons for senior pupils – that is, less than one lesson per day. In addition, they discuss the inclusion of requirements of 4.5 square meters per student when working with computer equipment into sanitary standards. This means the need to provide schools with classrooms of more than 90 square meters and virtually eliminates the development of e-learning. The unresolved issue of requirements for a comprehensive information security system when using electronic content such as personal data of users and the state information system in general is also a barrier to the use of foreign resources or cloud technologies, which are important components of modern e-education.
There was no clear definition of e-textbooks before the adoption of the new Law “On Education”, but now they are considered as a key element of educational digital technologies in schools, as they should ensure providing pupils not only with knowledge but also with competences as well as make them interested in learning through maximum use of multimedia and interactive content.
BRDO experts together with specialists from the Ministry of Education and Science and the Institute of Educational Content Modernization have already developed a series of regulatory acts that will become the first step towards the introduction of digital education. In particular, it is the Regulation on electronic textbooks and the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine “On the National Electronic Platform”, which have already been publicly discussed and are currently in the approval stage.
The full implementation of e-textbooks requires developing the following:
The event was also attended by representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science, Halyna Lakusta, the Director of Educational Programs of the IT Ukraine Association, Svitlana Lytvynova, the Deputy Director of the Institute of Educational Content Modernization, Andriy Piskun, the Advisor to the Head of the State Agency for E-Governance, Ihor Kaplushenko, the managing partner of the Rozumnyky Publishing House, Yuriy Tabachyn, the co-founder of EdPro company, Ilya Filipov, the EdEra project manager, Serhiy Tkachenko, the head of Unicheck, and representatives of educational and public communities.
The Green Paper “E-learning” and the presentation are available at www.regulation.gov.ua.
*The Law “On Education” defines an electronic textbook (manual) as an electronic educational publication containing systematic teaching materials that corresponds to an educational program, contains digital objects of various formats and provides interactive communication. The Law also provides for the use of electronic versions of textbooks, multimedia educational resources, public educational, scientific and information resources on the Internet in educational processes.