Article 16 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus of 14 January 2022 No. 154-Z defines distance education as training and education delivered mainly through independent mastering of the content of educational programmes by students and student-teacher interaction based on the use of distance educational technologies (implemented primarily by means of ICT with mediated interaction of students and teachers who are at a distance).
The Concept of Informatization of the Education System of the Republic of Belarus for the Period up to 2020 (approved by the Minister of Education of the Republic of Belarus S.A. Maskevich June 24, 2013) defines information and communication technology (ICT) as a set of information and communication technologies ensuring the collection, processing, storage, distribution, display and use of information in the interests of users. The Concept also defines e-learning as a learner-centered approach to using multimedia technologies and the Internet to improve the quality of learning by facilitating access to resources and services, as well as remote information exchange and interaction.
Constitution and laws: Article 49 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus (adopted in 1994 and last amended on 27 February 2022) guarantees accessibility and free general secondary education. In accordance with Article 28, the State creates conditions for the protection of personal data and the security of the individual and society when using them. There is no article in the Constitution relating to educational technologies.
There is also no separate law on educational technologies. However, the Technical Regulations of the Republic of Belarus were established in Article 26 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus dated 17.07.2018 No. 130-Z "On regulatory legal acts". The main national laws regarding technology in education include the Code of Education of the Republic of Belarus of 13 January 2011 No. 243-Z, which states in its article 89 that the educational process should be organized on the basis of modern educational and information technologies. These laws on technology in education also include the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus of 7 April 2022 No. 136 “On the managing body for digital development and informatisation”, and the Law of the Republic of Belarus of 7 May 2021 No. 99-З “On the protection of personal data”
Some decisions of the Council of Ministrers of the Republic of Belarus have also been adopted, such as the Decision o of 2 February 2021 No. 66 "On the State Programme on Digital Development of Belarus for 2021-2025", the Decision of 30 November 2021 No. 683 “On the Concept of Development of the Education System of the Republic of Belarus for the period up to 2030”, the Decision of 31 March 2021 No. 182 "On measures to implement the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus of 16 December 2019 No. 461", and the Decision of of 29 January 2021 No. 57 “On the State Programme on Education and Youth Policy for 2021-2025”.
Policies, plans and strategies: The legislative and policy framework in the field of educational technology is first outlined in the State Programme on Digital Development of Belarus 2021-2025, which aims to ensure access to education based on the use of modern information technologies both to improve the quality of the educational process and to prepare citizens for life and work in the digital economy. The program provides for the development of the technological and information and communication infrastructure of educational institutions, the effective and flexible use of the latest information technologies both to improve the quality of the educational process and to support the transition to personalized learning. In accordance with the Programme, the share of educational institutions interacting with the National Information and Education Environment (NIEE) and covered by the public electronic educational services should reach 100%, and up to 200 educational institutions should be using distance learning technologies by 2025.
The State Programme “Education and Youth Policy” 2021-2025 envisages use of modern teaching aids and educational equipment in the educational process; introduction of modern information and communication technologies into educational practice; development of NIEE, including a single platform to provide access to educational resources for all participants in the educational process; further improvement and development of statistical records and digitalisation processes in education.
The Concept of Development of the Education System of the Republic of Belarus for the period up to 2030 aims at: providing infrastructure for the education system; ensuring the functioning and development of the system of electronic educational resources on a single platform; developing distance learning as an independent form of education delivery; improving the governance of the education system through the use of NIEE capabilities.
Finally, the Concept of Digital Transformation of Processes in the Education System of Belarus for 2019-2025 lays the foundation for the creation of NIEE, which will form a new digital reality of the education system, including information and telecommunications infrastructure, regulatory and legal support, reliable educational services and platforms, information systems and resources to ensure the desired level of information security.
Digital competency frameworks: Neither the Code of Education of the Republic of Belarus (2011) nor the amendments to the code (2022) include the terms digital skills and/or competences. Article 18 of the Code and the Concept of Continuous Education of Children and Young Students (2015) introduced the concept of an ‘information culture’, which covers quite a few competence areas of the Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp 2.0). In parallel, the Teacher Professional Qualification Standard and the Guidelines for Teacher Professional Qualification Standard define teachers’ digital competency.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: The Guidelines on the Organisation of the Educational Process in Educational Institutions amid the Spread of COVID-19 define how the educational process should be organised in line with the principles of social distancing, including, if necessary, teaching fully or partly based on the use of ICT (in certain academic subjects, disciplines or types of classes), depending on the category and capacity of a particular educational institution.
In accordance with the Temporary Recommendations on the Organisation of the Educational Process amid the Spread of COVID-19, it is possible to exclude the use of common telephones, computer equipment, equipment of language laboratories (headphones) and in case they are used their disinfection is required.
The Law of the Republic of Belarus of 14 January 2022 No. 154-Z is a new version of the Education Code. The new edition is aimed at improving the norms of the Code, taking into account the practice of its application in modern conditions. The changes provide for the introduction of norms aimed at introducing inclusive approaches in education that provide equal access to education for all students, taking into account their individual educational needs and individual opportunities. Distance learning is enshrined in the Code as an independent form of education, it establishes the possibility of implementing educational programs through a network form of interaction between educational institutions.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: Law of the Republic of Belarus of 8 January 2015 No. 239-Z "About energy saving" and “Concept for the development of power generating capacities and electrical networks for the period up to 2030” ensure access to electricity, including in disadvantaged areas. No additional mention was found in the official documents on education.
Computers and devices: The State Programme “Education and Youth Policy” 2021-2025 aims to upgrade servers and personal computers. To further develop the technological infrastructure and digital capacity of schools, it is planned to upgrade educational institutions’ facilities (equipping educational institutions with modern computers and multimedia devices, improving external and internal local networks, purchasing information security tools, etc.) and resources. By 2025, 80% of general secondary educational institutions are expected to be supplied with modern teaching aids and equipment for classrooms. There is no ongoing initiative to provide a device for every student/family or to provide subsidies to primary and secondy school students for the purchase of laptops/tablets.
Internet connectivity: The State Programme “Education and Youth Policy” 2021-2025 anticipates the transition to higher-speed communication standards and an upgrade of servers and personal computers. The Edict of the President of the Republic of Belarus dated 16 January 2020 No. 13 set up a for universal service of communications and informatisation. All telecoms operators operating in Belarus transfer 1.5 per cent of their revenues to a state non-budgetary fund. The funds support the construction of infrastructure for the provision of universal telecommunication services. Universal telecom services include access services to the fixed telecommunication network using the terminal subscriber unit and the internet at points of shared use.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The Belarus Ministry of Education has taken a number of decisions designed to adjust the educational process during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Guidelines on the Organisation of the Educational Process in Educational Institutions amid the Spread of COVID-19 (2020), the educational process can be organized in whole or in part using ICT. The portal “Unified Information and Educational Resource of the Republic of Belarus” was developed as a component of instructional support of the educational process in institutions of general secondary education. This portal is intended to enhance the organisation of education for students who, for whatever reason, are temporarily unable to attend an educational institution. According to the Guidelines on the use of the portal, educational materials can be used either when individual students are absent from classes, or when lessons are conducted remotely for the whole class.
According to the Decision of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus of 26 December 2018 No. 125, development of information and communication competence is carried out at all levels of general secondary education and within all academic disciplines.
At the primary education level, the ability to follow elementary rules to be safe on the Internet is one of the results of mastering the content of the educational programme of the “Life Safety Fundamentals” course.
At the basic and secondary education levels, the ability to work with different types of information using a computer and other ICT is acquired through sequentially mastering the content of the compulsory course on Informatics (Computer Science) in grades 5 to 11. It covers the following topics: information and information processes; computer hardware and software; basics of algorithm development and programming; computer information technology; communication technology; information modeling, etc.
Special attention is paid to developing information culture. According to the Decision of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus of 31 December 202 No. 312, it implies students’ knowledge of basics of information security and the risks information might bear for health, physical, intellectual, mental, spiritual and social development; as well as students’ skills to apply advanced information technology, their ability to use relevant tools and create information products.
Article 18 of the Code and the Concept of Continuous Education of Children and Young Students (2015) introduced the concept of an ‘information culture’, which covers quite a few competence areas of the Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp 2.0) – the ability to store and use information based on information and communication technology competence (ICT competence) and critical thinking. Other components of the concept introduced in the Programme of Continuing Education for Children and Young People for 2021-2025 include the ability ‘to create an information product’, information protection skills and the ability to minimise health risks while using ICTs. The concept specifies various aspects of the information culture for students: professional information skills; participation in the creation and operation of the educational institution’s media; ability to counteract negative socio-psychological effects when working with information.
Finally, the Concept of Digital Transformation of Processes in the Education System of Belarus for 2019-2025 envisions the introduction and promotion of STEM approach in Belarus and establishment of STEM support centers at the national, regional and local levels. No official initiative has been found regarding inclusion of girls/women in STEM.
The Teacher Professional Qualification Standard and the Guidelines for Teacher Professional Qualification Standard define teachers’ digital competency. It should include the ability to: use effective ways of organizing students' independent learning by means of ICT; design electronic resources; act as a moderator of a network community (real and virtual) of teachers on the issues of creating and developing a learning environment; design mechanisms for creating an adaptive learning environment in an educational institution; use technologies to design a safe and comfortable learning environment; participate in the development and implementation of violence prevention programmes in social networks; monitor the emergence of new means of instructional support to education delivery, including ICT, electronic educational resources and cloud servers; use ICT, electronic educational resources and cloud servers; post content on educational portals to organise interactive networking among participants of the educational process; use mass media as a tool for educational institution’s communication with the public; use network forms of interaction; and use technical means (video cameras, etc.), and the Internet (blogs, social networks, etc.) for self-assessment and evaluation of the process and outcomes of their own pedagogical activity; etc.
According to the Higher Education Standards “Pedagogy”, teachers’ competencies include skills related to the use of technical devices, information management and computer work.
In teacher initial training institutions, Information Technologies in Education is a compulsory course. This course is designed to prepare students of higher education institutions studying in pedagogical specialties to use information technology as a type of professional competence of a future teacher, as a tool to improve the efficiency of the organization of the educational process and it is an important educational component of student training. It includes three sections: informatization and computerization of education, information and communication technologies in education, computer-oriented didactic systems and technologies for their construction.
According to the Decision of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus of 19 June 2021 No. 348, practicing teachers are to take improving qualification courses at least once every three years. The curriculum of the ongoing teachers’ improving qualification courses always contains units focused on ensuring further development of teachers’ digital skills and mastering the use of information technologies in teaching.
Upon the Order of the Ministry of Education of March 27, 2020, No. 21/9642, compulsory courses on information security are included in the curriculum.
Preventive activities aimed at ensuring cybersecurity and safety are pursued in all educational institutions in accordance with the Ministry of Internal Affairs’s Tutorial on countermeasures against high-tech crimes.
In accordance with the Instructional Letter “Peculiarities of organizing social, educational and ideological work in general secondary education institutions in the 2022/2023 academic year”, general secondary education institutions are recommended to carry out outreach activities aimed at preventing Internet threats and cyberbullying. When organizing work in this direction, it is recommended to use the manual "Actual issues of information security". The manual discusses conceptual approaches to information security in the Republic of Belarus, issues of its legal support in the country and abroad, as well as modern media technologies in the context of national security risks.
2.4.1. Data privacy
Data privacy is ensured in accordance with the Law of the Republic of Belarus on the Protection of Personal Data of May 7, 2021, No. 99-Z.
On June 10, 2022, the Minister of Education of the Republic of Belarus approved the Rules for Teachers. Teachers are to maintain the confidentiality of personally entrusted information within the framework of the law and follow ethical principles and norms for activities in the media space.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
In accordance with the Programme for Continuing Education of Children and Youth for 2021-2025, special events are held every year to teach students the skills of safe behavior in cyberspace to minimise the risks associated with harm to health, physical, intellectual, mental, spiritual and social development of students. Students and their legal representatives also receive information on the responsibility for violating legal regulations in the field of information and media. In March 2022, a national videoconference “Cybercrime as a Threat to the Security of Modern Society: Types, Features, Methods of Combat and Prevention” was held involving representatives of government bodies, teachers, students and other stakeholders.
In accordance with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus on the managing body for digital development and informatisation of April 7, 2022 No. 136, the Ministry of Communications and Informatisation is entrusted with the functions of implementing state policy and state regulation in the field of digital development, including: ensuring consistency and integrity of actions of public bodies and organisations in solving national and intersectoral tasks; supervising activities for the creation and development of public digital platforms, information systems and resources; organising and implementing international cooperation in the field of digital development; and participating in the development of the content of educational programmes for higher and secondary professional education and additional adult education for staff training, retraining, internships and advanced training in the field of digital development.
The Republican Centre for Digital Development under the Ministry of Communications and Informatisation leads the implementation of measures aimed at digital development and manages state digital platforms and information systems. The Centre ensures the: delivery of services on organisational and technical support to measures aimed at digital development; provision of information and analytical support for the activities of the Ministry of Communications and Informatisation; and development of proposals for improving the forms of national statistical reports on digital development, adjusting technical regulatory acts in the field of digital development, requirements for the creation, interaction, compatibility of public digital platforms and information systems. The forecast and coordination of digital development of the education system is carried out at the national, regional and district levels.
At the national level, the system is managed by the Ministry of Education in coordination with the Ministry of Communication and Informatization. There are also specialized national agencies and institutes subordinate to the Ministry of Education such as Main Information and Analytical Centre of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus; National Institute of Education; Academy of Postgraduate Education; Republican Institute of Vocational Education; Republican Institute of Higher Education; Belarusian State University; Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics.
At the regional level the system is managed by the Education Departments of Regional and Minsk City Executive Committees and their specialized regional agencies and institutes which are also subordinate to the similar national ones.
At the local level the system is managed by Departments of education, sports and tourism of district (city) executive committees and their subordinate agencies such as Information Technology Resource Centers and STEM Centers.
To improve the efficiency of strategic and operational management of the national education system, the National Information and Education Environment (NIEE) is designed to: support educators responsible for providing primary data with automated means for their input, verification and confirmation; automate the processes of collecting and verifying primary data on the main information objects in the field of education collected from integrated automated control systems (ACS) of educational organizations and education information systems; and provide education administrators and specialists with tools for basic analysis of primary data, supply up-to-date reliable data to all NIEE users and transfer primary and aggregated data to other information systems. Major tasks of NIEE include centralised storage of structured information in the Republican Data Processing Centre and integration with automated information systems of other departments through the National Automated Information System (NAIS). NIEE will unite all educational organizations into a single network, with a vertical hierarchy. It is assumed that higher authorities will have online access to the information resources of lower authorities and all the subordinate educational institutions. NIEE’s target audience includes representatives and heads of educational institutions at all levels of the education system, heads and staff of the Ministry of Education and local authorities, heads and staff of national authorities responsible for the development of the education system, as well as other stakeholders. NIEE interacts with external users and information systems, providing and receiving information within the framework of interdepartmental interaction through NAIS. In accordance with the Concept of Digital Transformation of Processes in the Education System, the development of NIEE will be completed by 2025.
In accordance with the State School Standard, educational institutions are responsible for the: creation of safe environment for the organisation of educational processes; creation of safe conditions for students, legal representatives of junior students, teachers and other employees of educational institutions within the territory of educational institutions (access control, list of items and substances prohibited for storage and use by students, other measures); and measures for social protection of students.
While implementing educational programmes of general secondary education, relevant facilities and resources are required to ensure the effective use of modern information and communication technologies in the educational process, the introduction of electronic services used by: teaching staff in the organisation, implementation and analysis of the results of the educational process; students in training sessions (classes), when doing homework, in project and research activities; and legal representatives of junior students.
Within the territory of educational institutions students are strictly prohibited to: use mobile and gaming devices during the educational process without teacher’s permission; promote, store and disseminate information containing propaganda of cruelty and violence by means of modern devices and technologies; and take videos during training sessions, class hours, extracurricular activities without the permission of the administration, class teacher and/or subject teacher.
The rules for using mobile communication devices are set in Chapter 7 of the State School Standard.
This profile was commissioned by UNESCO IITE and developed by Tatsiana Puchkouskaya.