Although the 2009 Education law and various educational policies and documents mention the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education, digital educational tools and e-education, none of them provides clear definition of educational technology and other relevant terms. The exception is distance education, which is defined in the 2009 Education law as the form of education in which the educational process is organized based on electronic, telecommunication, software-technical means.
Constitution and laws: According to Article 42 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan (last amended in 2016), every citizen has the right to education; the state guarantees the right to free compulsory general secondary education; the state controls the education system; the state guarantees that talented people continue their education regardless of their financial situation; and the state determines minimum educational standards. There is no reference to educational technology in the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The 2009 Education Law defines the basic principles of national policies in the field of ensuring citizens' right to education established in the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the general conditions for the regulation of educational activities, and serves as a basis for the adoption of relevant laws and other normative legal acts on separate levels of education. In the Republic of Azerbaijan, education possesses a worldly and non-stop nature, which reflects the interests of citizens, society and the state, and is a strategically important priority field of activity. Education is based on the international conventions on human rights and other international agreements that the Republic of Azerbaijan is a supporter of. One of the duties of the state is to provide public educational institutions with educational, scientific, scientific-methodical, information and communication technologies, digital educational resources and other technical means. The 2009 Education law does not define any vision for educational technology.
The 2019 Law on general education, in accordance with Article 42 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, defines the main principles of the state policy in the field of providing general education in the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as the organizational, legal and economic foundations of general education. Article 4 (4.0.13 and 4.0.18) specifies how to provide general education institutions with educational, methodical, information and communication technologies, digital educational resources and other technical means; and to create conditions for the application of modern educational technologies and innovations in the training process, and for the professional development of educators. The 2019 Law on general education does not specify the role of technology in education.
The 2018 Law on Vocational Education defines the creation of conditions for the application of innovations in the educational process by using new educational technologies as one of the priority tasks.
Policies, plans and strategies: The State Strategy for the development of education in the Republic of Azerbaijan of 2013 is a large-scale measure in five strategic directions for the creation of an educational system in the Republic of Azerbaijan. It aims at taking a leading position among the countries of the world in terms of quality results and comprehensiveness, training competent teachers and education managers and ensuring the provision of infrastructure supported with advanced technologies. The second strategic direction focuses on educators. They should be able to ensure effective mastering of the educational content with innovative teaching methods and technologies while considering individual characteristics of learners. Although this strategy does not have any direct connection to educational technology, it mentions the following objectives: create new mechanisms that stimulate the development of methodological tools, didactic materials and training tools in accordance with new curricula and training methodologies based on ICTs; provide infrastructure in educational institutions in accordance with the requirements of ICTs-based training methodology; provide every educational institution with the Internet and every student at the general secondary education level with a computer-tablet loaded with electronic textbook; allocate additional funds for the creation of modern, ICTs-based educational infrastructure, including electronic education.
Among the policies developed before the COVID-19 pandemic, and with a focus on teaching and learning, the State Program for provision of general education schools with information and communication technologies in the Republic of Azerbaijan (2005-2007 years), and the State Program on informatization of the education system in the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2008-2012 are of particular importance. The main goal of the State program for 2005-2007 was to create a unified educational information environment that served to improve the quality of education by using new information technologies in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The country was to provide equal opportunities to citizens at all levels of education, enable the integration of the national education management information system into the global education system, and prepare citizens for their lives within information societies. To ensure the informatisation of the education system, the following activities were implemented: establishment of a single information space of the education system; ensuring the assimilation of new information technologies built on the basis of computer technology and the use of all its possibilities; ensuring effective management of the country's education system; increasing the efficiency of scientific-methodical works; and creation of effective relations with educational institutions of the world countries through international information networks.
The State program for 2008-2012 was approved to achieve the same goal. It aimed to develop ICT infrastructure in the education system, expand the application of e-learning technologies, and ensure the use of information systems for education management, capacity building, and improvement of the normative legal framework.
In 2016, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan approved 12 strategic road maps for the national economy and the main sectors of the economy. Strategic target 3 of the road map on the perspective of the national economy of the country focused on development of human capital and prioritized improvement of the quality of education at all levels. One of the activities to achieve this priority was to improve physical and technological infrastructure involved in the development of human capital. Similarly, priority 2.5 of the road map on the development of telecommunications and information technologies in the country addressed improvement of ICT knowledge and skills as well as use of ICT in the education system.
Digital Education Concept approved by the order of the Ministry of Science and Education in 2018 is aimed to develop digital education by modernising educational programmes at all levels on the basis of high-quality electronic materials (e-books, e-seminars, open learning materials, etc.) and relevant methods (distance learning, web-based exams, etc.). The Concept also provides the basis to ensure access of teachers and students to digital teaching and learning materials as well as to various digital equipment.
The Socio-economic development strategy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2022─2026 sets a direction to increase digital skills from an early age, apply ICT in education, and expand distance-learning opportunities.
Digital competency frameworks: The Republic of Azerbaijan has not developed any national digital competency framework for students or teachers yet. However, some standards set forth by the National Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan approved by the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers in 2018 do relate to the use of technology. For instance, a person with general secondary education certificate (i.e., level two) should be able to operate in the conditions where modern technologies are used, can use them purposefully and with as little risk as possible.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: In early 2022, the president signed a presidential decree on allocating the funds for investment costs to ensure fibre-optic connectivity of schools across the country.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: There are no specific laws that ensure access to electricity in disadvantaged areas, but some policies and state programs regulate the provision of critical infrastructure. The State Program for the socio-economic development of the regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan (2004-2008) aimed to effectively use the existing potential in the regions of the country to develop individual sectors of the economy, to further expand the activities of production enterprises, to stimulate export-oriented product manufacturing, to further improve the standard of living of the population through the development of local entrepreneurship, to increase the level of employment, especially for the youth, and to ensure the dynamic development of the country's economy. The State Program on the development of the fuel-energy complex of the Republic of Azerbaijan (2005-2015) intended to meet the electricity, gas and other energy sources demand of the population and the economy more fully. Additionally, priority 3.2 of the strategic road map on the development of utility services (electricity and thermal energy, water and gas) of 2016 focused on the reduction of electricity losses, improvement of the quality of electric energy transmission and distribution.
In 2022, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan signed a decree on the implementation of additional measures related to the improvement of electricity supply in the country.
There are also policies for bettering technological infrastructure in the country. The National Strategy for the development of the information society in the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2014-2020 was developed to improve ICTs and the internet economy, which affects the advancement of other economic areas. It was mentioned that the internet economy created conditions for the optimal use of information resources as well as for improving the well-being of society as a whole. The strategy targeted bettering the use of ICTs in education, technological infrastructure, distant education, and other aspects of technology capacity of educational institutions. In 2016, the State Program for the implementation of the National Strategy for the development of the information society in the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2016-2020 was accepted.
Similarly, the Development Concept “Azerbaijan 2020: A vision of the future” not only advocated the use of ICTs but also aimed for the creation of reliable safe system to improve technological usage, shifting to digital broadcasting, as well as the 100% application of “e-government” services.
The recent socio-economic development strategy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2022-2026 supports and stimulates as well as confirms the concept of "Smart city" and "Smart village". In order for economic growth to be inclusive and sustainable, a balance of development between rural and urban areas is expected. In villages, as well as in cities, educational institutions, medical institutions, cultural centres, important communal and development services should be created and operate using digital technologies. All this significantly reduces the difference in living standards between urban and rural areas. During village planning and settlement, the region's current and potential role in the economic value chain is taken into account.
Computers and devices: Computer equipment are distributed among general educational institutions across the country every year based on the plan determined by the Ministry of Science and Education. The Ministry receives, registers and examines applications from educational institutions to compile a list of organizations. According to Annual Report 2021 by the Ministry of Science and Education, the ratio of computers to students is 1:18. When providing schools with computers, the following features are taken into account: Availability and connection type to the Azerbaijan Education Network;The number of students studying in a school on a shift basis; and Content projects implemented by a school (e-journal, digital skills, steam, eTwinning, etc.).
Currently, there are no specific laws, policies, or plans to provide subsidies to parents and/or students for the purchase of technological devices for education. or to regulate the use of students' personal devices in schools.
Internet connectivity: According to the Ministry of Science and Education, 4311 educational institutions have access to the corporate Intranet and Internet networks of the education system. This was achieved through ensuring the implementation of the activities mentioned in the relevant clauses of the State strategy for the development of education in the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Socio-economic development strategy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2022-2026 and the Digital Education Concept.
During the pandemic and for the realization of the teaching on the Virtual School platform, negotiations were held with many private institutions in this direction. To provide the necessary technologies in families and ensure access to distance learning for students and educators, authorities attempt to achieve sustainable partnership between the Ministry of Science and Education and private institutions. Within the project framework, Azercell and AzEduNet provided monthly internet packages for 30,000 and 10,000 teachers, respectively. The BestComp company donated 1,000 computers and supported the creation of Internet computer centres in front-line educational institutions. Enginet, Bakcell and ITE companies have presented a special discounted internet connection tariff for teachers. Crocussoft, Unibank and Integral companies plan to provide equipment solutions for students and educators with long-term credit terms and discounted prices.
During the pandemic, 1.4 million out of 1.6 million users of Virtual School platform and 125,000 teachers actively used the platform.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
In order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the face-to-face teaching and training process in educational institutions was temporarily suspended on March 3, 2020. To ensure the continuity of education, the Ministry of Science and Education launched the Virtual School project on April 2, 2020. In parallel, the Ministry organized tele-lessons. Starting from March 11, 2020, the "Culture" and "ARB Gunesh" channels have been broadcasting tele-lessons as the "Lesson Time" program.
In October of 2020, the Cabinet of Ministers released a decision on additional measures to organize the activities of educational institutions operating in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan during the special quarantine regime. Based on this decision, teaching and learning was organized remotely from November 2, 2020. Accordingly, the Ministry of Science and Education continued the implementation of the Virtual School project as well as tele-lessons for all learners.
Tele-lessons covered all subjects and provided brief explanations and instructions for various lesson topics. The Government chose tele-lessons to ensure comprehensiveness and accessibility of education during the pandemic as the state television covers the whole country. Additionally, the Ministry posted all tele-lessons on its video portal as well as Virtual School platform.
To support e-learning environment, a total of 14,404 educational resources were adapted to the national subject curricula and made available to educators and learners on the Ministry’s video portal between 2017 and 2022. It expanded the application of electronic educational technologies in classrooms. The resources are categorised into 13346 general education level video lessons (including tele-lessons), 446 vocational education level lessons, 140 STEAM project lessons. Moreover, 991 textbooks and methodical materials for teachers are open for use. It is planned to place another 3180 resources on the portal by the end of this year. Additionally, the e-textbook portal hosts more than 300 electronic textbooks, methodical materials and extracurricular reading materials on various subjects.
Educational institutions were given the opportunity to register to Virtual School and use the "MS Teams" platform free of charge.
Although no laws or strategies set concrete standards for learners’ or teachers’ digital skills (there is also no national digital competency framework for students or teachers), the Ministry of Science and Education implemented the Digital skills project in cooperation with the international educational company "Algoritmika". According to Annual Report 2021 by the Ministry of Science and Education, it is still being implemented and the includes about 300,000 students from 418 schools across Azerbaijan.
Starting from the 2022-2023 academic year, digital skills-oriented classes for students of Year 10 were launched in 20 schools to conduct informatics-oriented teaching within the Digital skills project. More than 400 students study in these classes. The project aims to develop algorithmic thinking, logic, project-based learning skills in students and teach the basics of programming. Similarly, STEAM Azerbaijan is being implemented since the 2019-2020 academic year. The main idea is to teach Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics in a joint and integrated manner. The main goal of the STEAM project is to develop students’ 21st century skills, particularly creativity, critical thinking and cooperation skills. The project intends to demonstrate students studying in the general education schools the application of scientific and technical knowledge in everyday life through practical exercises, to teach them engineering skills, and increase their ability to use modern ICT equipment by means of various programming languages. Selected schools organise STEAM classes for their students starting from the 6th grade.
"Introduction to Cybersecurity" (2020-2022) and "Artificial Intelligence and data science" (2022) projects were implemented by the Ministry of Science and Education. "Introduction to Cyber Security" training project covered students of IT-related specialties (starting from 2nd year) of the higher education institutions. The "Artificial intelligence and data science" project was implemented to increase the capacity of specialists in the field of data analytics and to train them in line with the labour market requirements.
According to the "State Standards of Vocational Education", information technology is defined as one of the 8 basic competencies that all learners should have according to the principle of lifelong education. This competence includes basic skills such as acquiring, evaluating and managing information; using appropriate social media tools; producing digital content; safely using information-communication technologies.
According to the "State standard and programs (curricula) of the general education level", digital literacy is defined as one of the competences to be formed in learners. Besides, according to abovementioned document informatics classes to be organised starting from the primary education level to the full secondary education level.
In order to prepare students of general education institutions for the labour market through the acquisition of basic knowledge and skills of various professions, "Vocational Oriented Classes" project has been implementing since 2019.
There is an element of awareness in the abovementioned policies about technology or ICTs. For instance, the second strategic direction of the State Strategy for the development of education in the Republic of Azerbaijan of 2013 focuses on educators. Consequently, this policy advocates teaching training focusing on the educational use of technology to ensure meaningful delivery of the content with the application of ICTs. Similarly, the Development Concept “Azerbaijan 2020: A vision of the future” highlights the importance of teachers’ role in the education process and emphasizes teacher professional development. Particularly, the Concept states creation of a flexible system for each teacher to acquire ICT skills.
The Ministry of Science and Education annually invests into teachers’ professional development with a particular focus on the use of educational technology in teaching and learning. In order to increase the knowledge and skills of educators on ICT, each year the Ministry determines the needs in various directions and prepares appropriate training packages. According to Annual Report 2021 by the Ministry of Science and Education, more than 81,500 educators participated in the trainings organized across the country between 2013 and 2021. These professional development initiatives are aligned with the State strategy for the development of education in the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Socio-economic development strategy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2022-2026 and the Digital Education Concept.
Within the framework of the Virtual School project, the Ministry ensures the provision of video and audio lessons, group works, teaching schedules, knowledge contests and pedagogical councils to support and monitor the distance learning process. 194 webinars were organized for teachers with a total of 110,000 participants.
"State Program for the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Development of the Information Society in the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2016-2020" aims to broaden the appliance of the multimedia technologies, virtual education and other forms of teaching in the vocational education, increase the use of ICT by the society, improve knowledge and skills of users, and define the implementation of ICT at all levels of education as a priority.
2.4.1. Data privacy
Although there is no legislation and/or policy that discuss and guarantee data privacy from the use of technology in education, the Law on information, informatization and information protection classifies information and considers organization of information protection in the country. More importantly, this Law regulates the relations arising in connection with formation of information resources based on the collection, processing, storage, search, distribution of information; creation and use of information systems, technologies, their means of provision; protection of information, and determines the rights of subjects participating in information processes.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
Both the National Strategy for the development of the information society in the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2014-2020 and the State Program for the implementation of the National Strategy for the development of the information society in the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2016-2020 touched on cybersecurity and safety. For example, the state program declared that safety of the country's information space would be protected; and the level of preparation and awareness of the population, private and other institutions in the field of cybersecurity would be increased. Nationwide preparedness and expanding awareness in the field of cybersecurity are also introduced in the Development Concept “Azerbaijan 2020: A vision of the future”.
Online abuse and cyberbullying of students are not mentioned in the legislation. Nevertheless, the Internet provided to educational institutions within the framework of the Azerbaijan Education Network is filtered from any harmful, unethical, dangerous online content with the help of an automatic filtering system, and students are protected from such information when using the Internet. This technology limits the search of harmful information covering up to 60 categories and several languages (i.e., Azerbaijani, English, and Russian) and allows to ensure maximum protection of children from unwanted web content. This, in turn, protects children's psyche from the harmful effects of the Internet, and serves to focus students' attention only on useful content in the educational process.
Moreover, relevant events are organized online and offline every year in connection with the International Safe Internet Day. V-XI grade students from different cities and regions across the country take part in the events. The main purpose of organizing the events is to inform students about the current threats in the global network, including conducting educational work, promoting safer and more responsible use of online technologies among children and adolescents.
Finally, currently, there are more than 30 specializations in IT sciences at bachelor's and master's levels of higher education institutions. Besides, within the framework of the "SABAH master's degree" project, specialist training in the fields of "Cyber Security", "Computer science and technology", and "Artificial intelligence" has been carrying out since 2021.
Azerbaijan has a centralized education system. The central governing body is the Ministry of Science and Education but the Cabinet of Ministers approves most regulations. The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan approves state programs, strategic road maps, and other types of strategic documents.
The use of technology in education is a task of the Ministry of Science and Education, implemented by the Bureau for ICT in Education. Although there is not any official task force uniting actors from different stakeholders, other government agencies do play a certain role in the process of ICT integration. The Ministry of Science and Education coordinates with the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport, particularly for issues related to IT infrastructure and internet connectivity. The Bureau for ICT in Education also assesses the alternative investments and monitors the use of technology in education across the country.
Schools work closely with the Bureau for ICT in Education for implementing educational technology. Yet their main responsibilities with respect to the use of specific devices such as mobile phones or tablets are not defined in any laws or policies.
This profile was commissioned by the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE) and developed by Ulkar Babayeva. It was was reviewed by Ulviyya Guliyeva, Third Secretary at Permanent Delegation of Azerbaijan to UNESCO.