The term information and communication technologies (ICTs) is used in Article 32 of the 2008 Education System Framework Law no. 14 in the context of providing distance education and innovating learning methods. However, no definition has been provided.
The 2011-2030 National Education Strategic Plan provides definitions for both distance education and ICT. The plan defines distance education as “a field of education that focuses on the pedagogy/andragogy, technology, and instructional systems designed to effectively deliver education to students who are not physically present on-site”. It adds that distance learning allows teachers and students to communicate asynchronously by exchanging printed or electronic media, or synchronously with the help of technology. ICT, in this plan, is defined as “hardware, software, networks, and media used for the collection, storage, processing, transmission, and presentation of information (voice, data, text, images), as well as related services”.
The term education technology (EdTech) is not used in government documents.
Constitution and laws: The 2008 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste (Section 6) does not mention technology in education, however, it stipulates that the State shall guarantee the progress of science and technology in general.
Timor-Leste does not have a dedicated ICT in education act or law. However, certain broad education laws refer to the integration and utilisation of ICT in this sector. The 2008 Education System Framework Law no. 14 encourages the provision of distance education through information and communications technology as complementary or as an alternative to the modality of attendance education. Similarly, the 2008 Decree-Law no.2 highlights the need to promote using ICTs in education methodologies and increase the collaboration between higher education, science, technology and research. Moreover, Article 20 of the 2010 Decree Law no. 7, further emphasises the development and use of ICT in Education Data and Management Systems.
Policies, plans and strategies: Timor-Leste does not have plans specific to ICT in education, however, this issue is mentioned in other national policy documents. The 2011-2030 National Education Strategic Plan includes many objectives to integrate ICT into the curriculum, information management and assessments. The plan also comprises several goals on improving technological infrastructure, development of EMIS systems, setting-up an ICT department and training of MoE staff in the use of ICT.
Timor-Leste adopted a National Policy for ICT (Política Nacional para as Tecnologias de Informação e Comunicações) for the period between 2017 and 2019 that aims to facilitate the use of ICT in all sectors to facilitate the overall development of the country, create a safe ICT ecosystem and its regional integration. The policy encourages the alignment and harmonization of digital skills and content development in the country. It also recommends the Ministry of Education to collaborate with the private sector and the ICT Development Agency to facilitate the development of ICT skills in the country with a focus on developing ICT creativity and not just ICT use.
The National Parliament of Timor-Leste Programme of the Eighth Constitutional Government recognises the importance of ICTs as a vital tool for the development of the country. It emphasises the need to develop a national ICT policy and to improve training in the information technology sector with the overall goal to promote modern and quality secondary education.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: In 2020, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport published the Covid-19 Response Plan that outlined the necessary steps that need to be taken by the education sector to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic. This response plan replaces the previous 2020 Ministry of Education Contingency Plan for COVID-19 that provided guidance on the continuation of education including flexible education delivery systems. To ensure the education system’s preparedness for future disasters, one of the plan’s key outcomes focuses on improving the integration and use of ICT in the country both in the short and long term. No legislation or policy on ICT integration was adopted following the COVID-19 pandemic.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
The development of ICT infrastructure is included in the 2011-2030 National Education Strategic Plan as of the priority programmes (no. 11). The programme aims to modernise and strengthen the technology infrastructure in all schools and offices. The plan highlights the challenges of existing technology infrastructure such as the lack of devices in schools, and low levels of training of MOE staff amongst others.
The Programme of the Eighth Constitutional Government has set targets for the formulation and implementation of infrastructure-specific national plans, including a national broadband plan, a digital economy infrastructure plan and a digital terrestrial television migration plan.
Electricity: Priority Programme no. 11 of the 2011-2030 National Education Strategic Plan includes a focus on the “continued improvement of national electricity, telecommunications and Government IT infrastructures”.
Computers and devices: Timor-Leste does not have policies on one-to-one computers and devices. However, certain small scale one-on-one initiatives have been introduced in the country. For example, in 2019, the National University of Timor-Leste provided SIM cards to allow all students and lecturers to communicate between them for research purposes. The 2017-2019 National Policy for Information and Communications Technologies also includes the provision of technology-based assistive devices such as adaptive learning devices including Braille and audio-visual aids.
Internet connectivity: The Programme of the Eighth Constitutional Government emphasizes both the development of ICT policy and infrastructure in the country. It also specifies the need to develop infrastructure that would allow widespread internet access throughout the country, especially in rural areas. The recently adopted 2022 Draft-Decree Law, presented by the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports provides state financial support for the installation and maintenance of internet connection in 1008 establishments of Central Basic Education (EBC) and General Technical-Vocational Secondary Schools.
The 2017-2019 National Policy for Information and Communications Technologies (Política Nacional para as Tecnologias de Informação e Comunicações) encourages the provision of a well-developed broadband internet capacity throughout the country under its ‘Broadband for All’ policy. It also aims to increase access to broadband internet in rural areas and improve the overall quality by introducing fibre optic infrastructure in Timor-Leste.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
Timor-Leste has been encouraging the use of distance learning modalities for improving the quality of teaching and learning in various policy documents. The 2008 Education System Framework Law (Article 32) encourages the organisation of distance education modules as a complementary or alternative modality of attendance education using ICT. The law recognises the value of distance education in continuing education and instruction for teachers. Regarding out-of-school and lifelong education as well, the law aims to promote the development of technological aptitudes and technical knowledge to allow students to adapt better to contemporary life. Similarly, the 2011-2030 National Education Strategic Plan highlights the importance of using distance education modalities for all levels of education as well as teacher training. The plan also details the financing of IT modalities for distance education and other pedagogical purposes.
The 2020 Covid-19 Response Plan published by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport promulgated the use of distance learning to guarantee the provision of education to all children during school closures due to the pandemic in 2020. It highlights both the provision of flexible online and distance learning opportunities as well as the training of stakeholders such as teachers and parents to support their children’s learning. The policy recognises the need to continue with these measures in the long term, going beyond the pandemic period.
Similarly, the 2020 UN Timor-Leste: COVID-19 Outbreak Multi-Sectoral Response Plan also highlights the use of distance learning via TV, radio and digital media to ensure continuity of education. The plan delineates the key initiatives introduced in the country. The first initiative, Eskola ba Uma, literally means ‘School Goes Home’ and uses an “Open, Distance and Flexible Learning Approach” using different modalities such as TV and radio. The TV programmes consist of a series of 30-minute lessons for all levels of schooling (from preschools to secondary), based on the national curriculum. The radio programmes are also 30 minutes long and developed based on the TV programmes and target children from preschool to 6th grade.
Another initiative was the creation of a learning platform, called ‘Learning Passport’, developed by the UNICEF HQ in partnership with Microsoft and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. It offers a digital library that provides access to all national curriculum-based textbooks. The platform can also be used to help teachers and parents to support children with special needs. Moreover, a YouTube Channel for online lessons for adolescents and a mobile application were also developed.
The need to integrate technological activities and ICT, especially in secondary education is elucidated in the 2011-2030 National Education Strategic Plan. It recommends including ICT, not only as a subject in the official curriculum but also integrating it as a means of transmitting information, and for its use in assessment methods. The plan enlists several skills that students can develop with the integration of ICT into the curriculum such as creativity, problem-solving skills, complex communication skills and critical thinking. Technology is positioned to help transform pedagogy so that schools can move from a teacher-directed methodology towards ensuring a greater focus on the individual learner.
Timor-Leste’s General Secondary curriculum includes digital competence as one of the five key competencies students need to develop. This, in turn, would enable them to acquire other key competencies in languages, science, social sciences, mathematics and communications.
The promotion of STEM is highlighted in several education laws and plans. The 2008 Education System Framework Law no. 14 highlights the importance of training and research in science and technology at primary and higher education levels respectively. In secondary education, the inclusion of technological components in higher education and the creation of special schools to teach technological courses are some of the objectives listed. It does not include a component in promoting the inclusion of girls in STEM.
The promotion of digital literacy has been highlighted in the 2017-2019 National Policy for Information and Communications Technologies (Política Nacional para as Tecnologias de Informação e Comunicações). In coordination with the Ministry of Education and the private sector, the ICT Development Agency is tasked with facilitating the development of ICT skills in the country that will focus on developing ICT creativity rather than ICT use. The agency will focus mainly on aligning and harmonizing approaches to skills development and creating awareness of how Timorese companies and organizations can become builders of the new digital economy.
The use of information technology, multimedia materials and distance learning modalities for training teachers is prescribed by the Programme of the Eighth Constitutional Government.
The 2020 Covid-19 Response Plan published by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport emphasised the need for teachers to be trained in distance education to support children during the current COVID-19 pandemic. They would need to be trained in using the various programmes of distance education implemented in the country such as the Eskola ba Uma, Halimar ba Uma, and Learning Passport. The document also outlined that such training would be conducted with the help of a facilitator working with a group of teachers via the medium of video-calling and Learning Management Software.
In 2015, a Professional Learning and Mentoring Program (ALMA) was developed by the Timor-Leste Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) in partnership with the Australian government to ensure that the new National Basic Education Curriculum was taught effectively by teachers. One of the core components of this ongoing programme is to enable teachers to utilise education technology to improve information sharing and monitoring. The programme provided school leaders with tablets that included custom-built apps to collect, store and analyse classroom data. It also contains guidelines on teaching the new curriculum, lesson plans, and materials.
2.4.1. Data privacy
Timor-Leste is developing measures to enhance cybersecurity in the country such as by introducing a draft cybercrime legislation that outlines substantive and procedural criminal provisions as well as the international cooperation regarding cybercrimes. However, this legislation is not specific to the education sector. The Government will establish a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), under the auspices of the CGE, based on a public-private partnership (PPP) model or through a partnership between Governments. This approach will allow cybersecurity officers across the Government to share and benefit from the experience of colleagues. It will also allow for the application of a common approach across ministries to address cybersecurity issues.
The 2002 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste already includes constitutional safeguards regarding the protection of personal data and privacy for all citizens under sections 36 and 38 that refer to “Right to honour and privacy” and “Protection of personal data” respectively. Similarly, the 2017-2019 National Policy for Information and Communications Technologies (Política Nacional para as Tecnologias de Informação e Comunicações) mentions the implementation of a coherent and legal regulatory regime that guarantees a safe environment for advanced uses of ICT which would include laws on data protection.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
In 2021, the parliament introduced a draft cybercrime legislation that seeks to establish substantive provisions for the protection of electronic personal databases and the creation of a national cybersecurity agency to oversee the cybersecurity strategy amongst others.
The Ministry of Education is the Government’s main body in charge of “the design, execution, coordination, and evaluation of the policies defined and approved by the Council of Ministers for education and culture, as well as for science and technology”. The ministry is also charged with facilitating the development and use of ICT in Education Data and Management Systems apart from its use in teaching and learning.
Similarly, the 2008 Decree-Law no.2 accords the Ministry of Education the responsibility to “promote the gradual and sustained introduction of new information and communication technologies into training and educational methodologies”. Further, the National Directorate for Technical and Higher Education, which is responsible for the coordination and execution of technical and higher education policies is tasked with the goal of “promoting close collaboration between higher education, science, technology and research”. The 2010 Decree Law no. 7, Article 20 further highlights the role of the Ministry of Education in facilitating the development and use of ICT in Education Data and Management Systems.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications is the government’s department responsible for the development of ICTs in the country.
As per the 2017-2019 National Policy for Information and Communications Technologies (Política Nacional para as Tecnologias de Informação e Comunicações) a dedicated ICT Development Agency would be created to implement the ICT Policy together with the relevant government ministries. The ICT Development Agency would have the authority to direct the ministries regarding the development and provision of ICT functions and would also function as a coordinating entity for the harmonization of ICT systems and data sharing between the different ministries. The agency is also responsible for digital skills development in the country.
There is no information available on the prohibition of the use of mobile devices in classrooms in Timor-Leste.