The term “ICT” is used in government plans and strategy documents, such as the 2014-2019 Education Development Plan (EDSP 3), which aims to expand the use of ICT applications and develop various IT software and systems such as e-schools and e-exams. The 2019 Journal of the Educational Conference entitled:” Integrating assistive technology for education in Palestine” published by the Ministry of Education also uses the term “ICT skills”, which refers to the learner's ability to employ information and communication technology in research and communication and to actively participate in the home, school, work, and community.
The 2014-2019 Education Development Plan (EDSP 3) also mentions the term “edtech”, which includes the provision of essential infrastructure, such as libraries and computer and science labs for the teaching and learning process to replace the predominant theoretical explanations by practical means.
No specific definition of “ICT” or “edtech” were found in the educational laws.
Constitution and laws: Article 24 of the 2003 Palestinian Constitution with Amendments through 2005 states that all citizens have the right to education. Education is free in public institutions and schools, and it is compulsory until the basic level. The article also states that the National Authority is in charge of supervising all educational levels and shall strive to improve the educational system. However, the 2003 Constitution of the country does not include any articles related to technology.
Article 5 of the Educational Law no.1 of 2013 states that one of the main objectives of the educational system of the country is to qualify students to deal with modern technology. In addition, Article 4 in the Educational-Law no. 8 of 2017, regarding education and public education, states that one of the main missions of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education is to employ ICT in the educational system in order to provide an environment with modern educational methods.
Policies, plans and strategies: The 2021 National Development Plan, an updated version of the 2017-2022 National Policy Agenda (NPA), identifies digital transformation among national development priorities. Part of this plan is to improve the quality of education and align vocational education with the requirements of the labor market by promoting digital education.
The 2014-2019 Education Development Plan (EDSP 3) aims to prepare students to contribute and interact positively with the requirement of scientific and technological development.
The 2017-2022 National Policy Agenda identifies the high policies of sector and cross sector strategies, and prepares the sectoral strategic plans in accordance with the action methodology approved by the Council of Ministers. The sectoral and cross sector strategic planning includes 21 sectors and cross sectors. One of these sectors is about the “Information and communication technology”, and aims to digitalize the whole educational system to achieve milestone change in the educational process. More specifically, it aims to employ technology for the service of education based on four components: Internet, portals, computers, and teacher training and rehabilitation.
The Palestinian National Voluntary Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda included in its objectives the development of e-learning programmes and the modernization of the curricula.
Finally, the 2017-2022 Education Sector Strategic Plan aims to transform the education system to realize the following vision: “A Palestinian society that has values, culture and technology to produce knowledge and employ it for its liberation and development”. Thus, the Ministry of Education aims to create safe child-friendly schools with diversified education and technology methods able to build effective relations with society to meet students’ needs. This is done through the maintenance and the modernization of school buildings, as well as the learning technology workshops in cooperation with the Buildings General Directorate and the support of some donors such as Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Furthermore, this Strategic Plan suggests improving some development policies and educational goals. For instance, it is planned to “build a computerized system for the General Directorate of Buildings in line with the e-government efforts in order to organize and integrate work and facilitate access to information, as well as to keep pace with the advancement of technology”. In addition to that, the programs of the Education Sectoral Strategic Plan aim to increase the number of preschools that use educational techniques and learning technology in the teaching and learning process andthe number of students and teachers who use modern technology in teaching in classrooms and workshops. It finally aims to enhance the use of technology in the educational process and in classrooms.
Digital competency frameworks: There is no national competency framework or strategy for digital skills development.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: The Ministry of Education has developed two plans, one short and one long term. The short-term plan focuses on encouraging all school teachers to connect with their students via available social media platforms. The objective is to use “current social media platforms” in order to overcome the shock of the pandemic. The long-term plan was focused on fully activating the Ministry of Education (MoE) e-learning platform through rich, and interactive content and materials, so that students can use them after the end of the pandemic. The COVID-19 policies pursued three objectives in the country. to create online platforms to ensure the educational content for all students during school closure; to use these platforms to broadcast a comprehensive and detailed media plan that includes all messaging and videos around hygiene; and to encourage all school counsellors and MoE emergency teams to utilize school social media platforms to offer individual counselling to all the students.
No changes in regulations as a result of COVID-19 were found.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: Article 8 of the 2015 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency law no.14 states that the Palestinian Energy and Environment Research Centre (PEERC) is responsible for disseminating knowledge and awareness of renewable energy applications and energy conservation methods in all sectors. The PEERC cooperates with the Ministry of Education to introduce the concepts of energy conservation into school curricula.
The 2017 Electricity Sector Performance Improvement Project, led by the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority (PENRA), aims to improve the efficiency of the Palestinian electricity sector by reducing system losses, and pilot a business model for solar rooftop energy in Gaza in order to achieve the energy security goals of the country. Most of the funds of the project come from the World Bank and several donors and have gone to schools for donations.
The 2017-2022 Education Sector Strategic Plan states that one of its main priorities is to ensure safety and availability of electricity. This is done through the cooperation between the Ministry, international institutions and donors to the education sector and local communities. Moreover, as part of the plan to provide schools with sustainable energy, the MoE decided to support the implementation of power generating solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity. According to the plan, the Ministry has cooperated with power companies to be able to transfer the electricity surplus in the summer to the utility power of these companies which in turn return these units of electricity to the schools in winter when consumption of electricity increases and solar panels productivity decreases.
Palestine's laws, policies and strategies contain no information regarding the provision of universal electricity connectivity to the population.
Computers and devices: In April 2010, One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a non-proﬁt organization whose mission is to help provide every child in the world with access to a modern education, launched an initiative in Palestine to provide 5,000 children in UNRWA Gaza schools and 1,000 children in West Bank with a laptop. However, since that date, no specific OLPC initiative was announced.
Most of the development partners of the country have started to provide support for the educational infrastructure in Palestine in order to increase the number of devices in schools. For example, GIZ program (Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) has equipped schools with computers and other digital devices for IT programs. Other partners have provided computer labs, laptop and desktop computers, tablets, LED screens, projectors, printers, and video teleconferencing equipment, as well as management software and system platforms. According to the 2019 Palestinian Digital Economy Assessment, development partners have established more than 40 computer labs with a total of 2,220 computers/laptops to schools vocational training centers, and communities.
Internet connectivity: The 2017-2022 Education Sector Strategic Plan states that, under an agreement with the Ministry of Telecommunication, the MoE has started to boost the digitalization process of the educational system by providing schools with free access to the internet. Additionally, the 2014-2019 Education Development Plan (EDSP 3) states that the MoE has recently established a Data Centre with a capacity to integrate and harmonize all ministry computer servers, networks, and databases. The central ministry has various wireless access points across the ministry premises and all staff has a modern desktop with Windows software.
After the pandemic, a partnership was formed between the Palestinian Ministry of Education (MoE), the Palestinian Ministry of Telecom and Information Technology (MTiT), the Palestinian Telecommunications Company (Paltel), and UNICEF in order to link 76 remote West Bank schools to the internet and ensure that at least 10,000 students, and 1,000 teachers are connected to distance learning. The 2014-2019 Education Development Plan (EDSP 3) recommends the implementation of a comprehensive ICT policy which support Internet connectivity in schools.
The laws, policies and strategies of Palestine do not contain any information regarding the provision of universal Internet access to the population.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
In response to COVID-19, the MoE started to work on connecting teachers and students with available e-leaning platforms in order to ensure the continuity of the academic year and maintain the continuity of knowledge sharing among students. According to the National Response Plan for COVID-19 (NRPC) and the 2020-2021 Education Cluster Strategy (ECS), the MoE has encouraged the supervisors and teachers to video tape classes and broadcast them on directorates and MoE YouTube channels. Moreover, they allowed partners who have developed self-learning materials for students to share them with the Ministry in order to provide children with more useful information. Partners could also share all MoE published materials on their own social media platforms and websites, which contributes to the diffusion of the information.
The Ministry uses public social media platforms such as Facebook for communication. In the long-term, the MoE has started to create and provide students with access to free online platforms for age-appropriate materials, worksheets and lessons, in order to offer IT solutions for teachers’ direct engagement with their students. One of the most known platforms used is the “Palestinian eSchool Portal", which is considered as a unified electronic portal for all schools to communicate between the ministry, the schools, the teachers, and the students. Finally, the Ministry is starting to work on special mobile applications that allow for proper communication flow between the different layers of the structure, which can be easily accessible through smartphones.
According to the 2019 Palestinian Digital Economy Assessment, the MoE had organized “extracurricular digital skills training programs” (clubs) and some contests for students enrolled in grades 5-11. The objective of these activities was to allow Palestinian students to work on a variety of projects, such as developing a website for participating in schools, using numerous online platforms, and also learning basic robotic concepts and artificial intelligence. These club projects take place after the school day. In addition to these programs, Development Partners of the country have provided some “Digital Skills Programs” that aim to improve the students’ digital skills. For instance, GIZ program is equipping schools with digital devices made for “IT programs, training on e-marketing and graphic and web design” in order to align learners’ skills with labor market needs and promote digital education. Additionally, the Qatar Charity had also provided students with applications for learning science and teamwork through robot games, such as FIRST LEGO League. The Palestinian eSchool Portal platform was also used to broadcast some technological classes in which teachers were teaching students some software skills such as Excel, Power Point and Word. Finally, the MoE has suggested to update curricula in a way that ensures that digital competencies are taught in all subjects to focus on practical skills, problem solving, and teamwork.
The Palestinian Ministry of Education and the Belgian Development Agency (BTC) have decided to implement a BTC e-learning program. This program was mainly focusing on improving teachers skills. However, it has also provided some “Mobile learning & apps “and “LEGO robotics activities”. According to the BTC, 500 students developed mobile applications under the guidance of 25 trained ministry experts. Moreover, in 2014 and 2015, during a mobile app fair under UNESCO’s ‘Youth Mobile’ flag, these applications were exhibited and prizes were awarded to the best application. The LEGO robotics project was also implemented in this program. It has provided training and equipment to pilot the use of LEGO robotics for STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which motivated the students that were using the robots to pursue their careers in this field. However, since then the 2019 Palestinian Digital Economy Assessment states there are no significant programs or plans to improve STEM education among school students.
The Center for Continuing Education, Birzeit University, has submitted to the International Development Research Centre a project entitled “Empowering Palestinian girls through digital learning innovations in STEM fields” . This project aims to increase the use of digital tools in education through the support of interactive teaching that helps students code, collaborate, and innovate. Also, the project will test hypotheses on how access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and digital skills can create learning opportunities, especially for girls.
The 2014-2019 Education Development Plan (EDSP 3) states that the MoE has started to improve the Teacher Education Strategy (TES) that was established during the EDSP 2. The objective of this strategy is to cover both in-service training and pre-service qualification programs. For instance, in partnership with the National Institute for Training (NIET), the ministry adopted some qualification programs for unqualified in-service teachers. One of these programs focuses on qualifying teachers teaching grades 5-10. It has targeted 547 teachers and 94 principals in 4 districts: Jenin, Qabatiya, Ramallah, and south of Hebron. The program trains main competencies and skills with a focus on content in 5 subjects: Arabic language, English, Science, Mathematics and Technology. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education has provided pre-service programs in partnership with four universities, Bethlehem, Arab-American University, Al-Najah, and Al-Azhar; to prepare a new generation of teachers to deal with technology.
The Ministry has started to use several interventions to improve the potential of teachers in using technology in education. For instance, the MoE and the Belgian Development Agency (BTC) have jointly implemented the 2011-2015 BTC e-learning project to introduce the use of ICT in education. The objective was to motivate teachers to develop learning objects using ICT. During the project, over 1,200 teachers received manual training on how they can apply and integrate ICT in the classroom. Moreover, the project developed a digital teacher portal, where teachers can exchange and share their learning objects (peer-to-peer approach). According to the BTC, the portal had received at the end of the project more than 2 million hits for downloading and uploading e-lessons, and 6,500 active users.
Finally, the World Bank has been supporting digital skills development in West Bank and Gaza through educational projects over the past decade. For instance, in 2013 the Teacher Education Improvement Project was released to provide laptops and LCD projectors to Palestinian schools and support the development of modules for in-service teacher training.
2.4.1. Data privacy
None of the education laws, plans and strategies above mentioned refer explicitly to cybersecurity, safety or data privacy.
The country has recently introduced the 2018 Law by Decree No. 10 on Cybercrime, which focuses on establishing the main standards and rules that safeguard the rights of Palestinian citizens regarding their data and their freedom of expressing their opinion. Likewise, the 2017 Law by Decree No. 16 on Cybercrime aims to regulate online activities and to complement the new media and press laws that penalize unlicensed online activity and content violations, such as using false or erroneous information or data (article 11) and using information technology with the intention of encroaching on any family principles or values by releasing live or recorded news, images, audio or visual recordings relating to the sanctity of the private or family life of individuals (article 22).
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
The Internet Society Palestine Chapter (ISOC) conducts campaigns that raise awareness about the risks and dangers of cyber harassment and electronic blackmail, especially for schoolgirls. One of these projects funded by the Internet Society Beyond the Net is called “Online Sexual Harassment-and-Blackmail Awareness for Palestinian Schoolgirls (iSHA-PS)”, and has already reached more than 2250 schoolgirls in 25 Palestinian schools during its first phase. This project targets schoolgirls at the age of 15-16 and aims to reduce the risks that they are currently facing online by improving their capacity in dealing with such cases. Moreover, the ISOC is planning to continue the coordination with the Palestinian Ministry of Education during the second phase of the project. The objective is to reach another 25 Palestinian schools and more than 2000 schoolgirls, with a special focus on public schools.
No additional regulations or policies in education regarding online abuse and cyberbullying were found.
The government of Palestine has two main Ministries that are responsible for the integration of ICT in education: the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology and the Palestinian Ministry of Education & Higher Education. However, there is no dedicated division for ICT under these ministries. On the one hand, the MoE is the entity responsible for making the main decisions, laws, policies, plans, and programs concerning the implementation of technology in the educational system (schools, administration, etc.). On the other hand, the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology is the entity in charge of the implementation process of these actions (creating the main ministerial websites, introducing computer labs and devices to schools, etc.).
The National Institute for Educational Training in Palestine is also involved to support the Ministry’s policies and directions in digitizing education by presenting live models of practical and procedural practices for Palestinian educators around the country. In this regard, in 2019, it held an educational conference entitled “Integrating Assistive Technology for Education in Palestine”. The main objectives of this conference were to providing realistic examples of technology integration in education in a practical and procedural manner and to highlight the features, requirements, and challenges of integrating assistive technology into the educational process in Palestine in light of the technological acceleration.
Finally, the Directorate General of Planning (DGoP) has established 13 committees to analyze the main components of the education system. Among these committees are the "integration of technology in teaching" and the "enhancement of the utilization of technology in the management system".
No information was found regarding the ban on mobile phones in schools.