According to the 2017 National ICT Policy, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are defined as the “hardware, software, networks, and media for the collection, storage, processing, transmission and presentation of information (voice, data, text, images), as well as related services. ICT can be split into ICI and IT”. Information technology (IT) is defined as the “hardware and software of information collection, storage, processing, and presentation”. In the suggested ICT School Policy, the term ICT is used to include “devices such as computers, digital cameras, TVs, video or CD players, CDs, MP3 players, overhead and data projectors, electronic whiteboards, cell phones, memory devices and printers. It also includes programmes or software that can be used with the equipment, as well as the use of email and internet services and utilisation of computer laboratories”.
There is no use of the term “Education technology (EdTech)” in any of the government legal, policy, or strategy documents.
The 2010 Distance Education and Flexible Learning Policy Statement and Strategic Framework defines the terms “distance education” and “flexible learning”. Distance education is defined as “an institutional approach to organising teaching and learning where the learners are not usually in the presence of the teachers. Instead, educational communication between teachers and learners is through different media, including text, audio and video, using technologies like printing, the internet, broadcasting and telephony”. Flexible learning on the other hand is considered “an institutional approach to organising teaching and learning in order to remove barriers that can limit people’s access to education, which can include physical, financial, psychological or social barriers. Flexible learning involves institutional change to offer learners more choice and convenience, and more personalised services to meet individual needs”. This includes changes to “technology by using a variety of delivery channels to avoid excluding some learners who do not have access to a particular technology, like TV or internet”.
Constitution and laws: The 1978 Constitution of the Solomon Islands (known as the Solomon Islands Independence Order) makes no mention of technology in relation to education, or technology more broadly. In the 2014 Education Act, a school can be “operating wholly or partially through distance, open learning, e-learning or a similar model where students do not attend on a day to day basis” (Article 39). The Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development is anticipating a new Education Bill to go before Parliament for approval in 2021.
The 2009 Telecommunications Act (last amended in 2021) includes a provision on the Universal Access Plan (Article 47) which aims towards the development of universal access to telecommunications services throughout the Solomon Islands (with no reference to internet or electricity services). This provision applies to education services. In preparation of the Universal Access Plan, technologies may be made available to further the objectives and availability of services in particular areas or to particular groups of persons.
Policies, plans and strategies: The government of the Solomon Islands has a strong policy, plan and strategy environment for the integration of ICT in education, which is expressed within numerous government documents.
The 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan sets out a five-year plan to improve access and quality of ICT for teaching, learning, administration and management of the education system. Within this Master Plan, ICT is viewed as an effective strategy for meeting many of the unique challenges faced by the Solomon Islands in terms of communication and access to resources, as well as equipping students with the skills and confidence to use ICT to maximise employment opportunities in the future. It covers four major pillars of ICT integration into education, namely 1) ICT infrastructure (iKonect), 2) human resource development (iTeach), 3) digital content development (iResourse), and 4) education management information system enhancement (iManage). The vision of the ICT Master Plan is for the children of the Solomon Islands to be equipped with the skills and confidence to thrive into the 21st Century, with the mission to “improve equitable access and management towards a quality and relevant education for all, supported by ICT”. The Master Plan was developed under the guidance of UNESCO ICT experts (in collaboration with the MEHRD), and through a consultation process with the Solomon Islands National Technical Task Force, composed of stakeholders from various Government Ministries, institutions and the private sector.
The 2016-18 ICT in Education Roadmap was developed as a pre-curser to the 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan, focusing on the effective use of ICTs to better manage the education system, the improvement of teaching practice and student learning outcomes through the use of ICT, the enhancement of Distance and Flexible Learning programs, and building awareness across the MEHRD and Solomon Islands around the effective use of ICT. Before the development of the ICT in Education Master Plan, there was also a review conducted of the 2013-15 ICT Master Plan, namely the Review of Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development ICT Plan 2013-15 which analyzed the progress made and the impact of the use of ICTs in the education sector.
The suggested ICT School Policy outlines the school’s approach in the use of ICTs for management, administration, teaching and learning. In addition, the ICT Readiness Survey (Information and Communication Technology for Better Education Services in the Solomon Islands), which was distributed to schools, aimed to assess the readiness of Solomon Island schools to effectively use ICT for teaching and learning in classrooms and the overall administration of the school itself. It included questions on infrastructure availability, use of ICT devices, budget, equitable access, leadership, and ICT skills.
The 2017 National ICT Policy sets out the Solomon Islands Government’s vision for ICT in the Solomon Islands: a peaceful, united and progressive Solomon Islands communicating and informed by technologies open to all. Its mission is to “make information and communications technologies available, affordable and accessible to all in Solomon Islands” and “to enable equal participation by all in the social, cultural, economic and Political life of Solomon Islands”. “ICT for Learning” (ICT Objective 6) is included as one of the nine government ICT objectives that were developed to achieve this vision, with an aim to “improve the availability and quality of education throughout the Solomon Islands by innovative use of ICT and develop ICT know-how in the workforce and public generally.” The objective further outlines a number of key areas in which improved access and use of ICT could potentially contribute to the development of education and manpower development objectives.
The Solomon Islands Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD) has also included ICT as a key strategy to work towards achieving progress across several areas under its core strategic documents, which outline the strategic direction for the use of ICT in education. The 2016-30 Education Strategic Framework highlights the role of ICT in achieving the long-term objectives of improving teaching and learning in the Solomon Islands as well as supporting the “evidence-based management of education”. It has positioned ICT in two key strategic areas: 1) a competency at the secondary level as a work-related, transferable skill that is relevant for employment and 2) a tool to support evidence-based management of education in terms of school assets, student outcomes and improving the reliability and robustness of SIEMIS. Similarly, the 2016-20 National Education Plan (and accompanying Implementation Framework) contain further detail on the proposed way forward towards achieving the goals of the Education Strategic Framework, with a focus on the development of student digital skills and the use of ICT in education system management.
The 2022-27 National E-commerce Strategy includes objectives for the development of digital skills.
Finally, the 2019-23 Five-Year ICT Strategic Plan aims to expand ICT infrastructure and connectivity for schools.
Digital competency frameworks: The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD) has developed digital competency standards for both teachers and students. According to the National Professional Standards for Teachers set out in the 2011 Solomon Islands Teaching Service Handbook (Chapter 10), which “all teachers shall achieve, maintain and develop”, a competent teacher is expected to have knowledge about literacy, numeracy and information and communication technologies (ICT) (Section 10.4). Moreover, the 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan, under iTeach (Program 2.1) includes an objective to “develop appropriate ICT competency framework for teachers in schools, based on the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, contextualised to the Solomon Islands”.
For students, the use of appropriate traditional and modern technology is included as a key learning outcome for the whole curriculum in the 2011 Solomon Islands National Curriculum Statement, with explicitly listed ICT competencies students are expected to develop. The 2016-20 National Education Action Plan – Implementation Framework also includes basic competence in science and technology and digital competence as a Life Long Learning key competency for students.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: The the 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan was published one year before the COVID-19 pandemic, including objectives for the development of the country’s infrastructure, management system, digital skills, and learning materials. The 2020 Covid-19 Education System Response Scenario Planning provides the government’s response to the pandemic, with plans for learning continuity through technology and the further scale of internet connectivity in schools to support remote learning for students.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: The 2022 National Building Code, which applies to school buildings, includes standards for electricity (including electrical safety). School buildings must comply with the requirements set in the standards.
Under its ICT infrastructure development goal (Goal 1) to “enhance ICT infrastructure and connectivity to facilitate equitable access to learning”, the 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan supports targeted secondary schools with ICT devices and reliable access to electricity. Schools with mains power are deemed to require surge protection, with the remaining schools planned to be surveyed to discern whether supplementary power sources will be required to run the additional ICT devices (such as generators and/or solar power). The Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification provides rural school electrification, with key donors and partners facilitating reliable power grid and supporting the technical capacity to support infrastructure and ICT devices.
The Solomon Islands Rural Electrification Project facilitates increased access to electricity in rural communities, while the Solomon Islands Electricity Authority was established under the 1996 Electricity Act with a mission to provide safe, reliable, affordable and accessible supply of electricity to the Solomon Islands.
Computers and devices: The government of the Solomon Islands, with assistance from donor partners, non-government organisations and other stakeholders, has been carrying out numerous ICT in education projects throughout the years which aim to equip schools and/or students with ICT devices.
The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project (2009-10) aimed to provide low cost laptops with learning resources for students and teachers in selected schools in the provinces, with 375 XO laptops being distributed to students and teachers in three primary schools in Marovo Lagoon, Western Province (Sombiro, Batuna and Patukae).
The ICT for Better Education (ICT4BE) project, which sought to drive the use of ICT to support management, administration, and teaching and learning throughout the education system, equipped a number of schools with Tablet Computers and Digital learning materials to promote information literacy and drive student learning outcomes. This initiative started from 2016-17 in a few targeted schools in urban, remote and remote outer island island locations, and later expanded to other locations.
The 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan aims to improve access to ICT devices, equipment and connectivity in primary and secondary schools, non-formal education centres and education management stakeholders, so as to provide the foundation for ICT-integrated teaching and learning and ICT-enhanced education management. As part of Project 1.1.2 (under iKonect), the MERHD plans to ensure that at least 10 secondary schools per year are equipped with ICT devices within a 5-year period (including computers, routers, switches, network cabling), with a target for 50 schools to be equipped with ICT devices and using these devices for teaching, learning and administrative purposes by 2023. Equipping secondary schools with appropriate ICT devices is viewed as a government priority in the Master Plan, with a requirement for all schools in the Solomon Islands with Year 12 and 13 cohorts to have a computer lab.
The 2017 National ICT Policy similarly aims to ensure schools have affordable access to computers or other ICT devices suitable for local conditions, with the government planning to examine the impacts of waivers of duties, taxes and levies on software and ICT hardware, including for use by schools, students, hospitals, clinics and people in under-served areas. To this end, there will also be a collaboration with schools, libraries, and local authorities to develop methods for after-hours sharing of ICT resources with local people at low cost.
Internet connectivity: Similar to the provision of ICT devices, there have been several ICT in Education projects and initiatives throughout the years to provide schools with internet connectivity. This includes the Distance Learning Centres Project (DLCP) introduced in 2005 which aimed to provide low cost Internet connectivity and ICT services to rural populations and students, the Youth First/People First Network (2001-11) which provided a network infrastructure for information sharing and knowledge building (used by teachers to learn about ICT use), and SIG-Connect (2010-16) which aimed to provide network connectivity to the whole government network.
In addition, several policy and strategy documents aim to enhance internet connectivity in schools. Through the project iKonect, the 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan aims to enhance internet connectivity in secondary schools (Project 1.1.3), with a target for 50 schools to have internet/SIG-Connect intranet connectivity and using this connectivity for administrative and teaching/learning purposes by 2023. The MEHRD also plans to conduct an assessment and connect additional schools as opportunities arise. The 2017 National ICT Policy similarly aims to ensure schools have affordable access to broadband service, while the 2016-30 Education Strategic Framework supports education centres in remote areas with access to connectivity and online services through the leveraging of submarine cable project to roll-out improved connectivity and digital delivery of SIG services.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the government aimed to further scale up internet connectivity in schools as part of the 2020 Covid-19 Education System Response Scenario Planning.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The Solomon Island government has a strong legal, policy and strategy framework for the provision of distance education and flexible learning. The purpose of the 2010 Distance Education and Flexible Learning Policy Statement and Strategic Framework is to make distance education and flexible learning a part of the regular education system in the Solomon Islands, through the use of different media including text, audio and video, and technologies such as printing, the internet, broadcasting and telephony. The aim of providing a variety of delivery channels is to avoid excluding learners who do not have access to a particular technology, such as television or the internet. The policy applies to all educational and training bodies, providing or responsible for the provision of, education and training in the Solomon Islands and all education levels (including early childhood, primary, secondary, TVET, tertiary education, and both formal and non-formal provision). It promotes and guides the MEHRD and other ministries and agencies with respect to the appropriate use of distance education methods and flexible learning approaches based on the core values of accessibility, equity and inclusiveness and efficiency. Education providers should follow three main principles when planning distance education and flexible learning initiatives, namely sustainability, equivalence, and quality. The provision of distance education is also referenced in the 2014 Education Act, where a school may operate “wholly or partially through distance, open learning, e-learning or a similar model where students do not attend on a day to day basis”, whieh is applied flexibly and fairly taking into account the school’s particular circumstances. The ICT for Better Education (ICT4BE) similarly trialed and evaluated ICT-Enabled Distance and Flexible Learning through the Distance Learning Centres Project (DLCP), while the 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan promotes the use of a new online learning portal under the iResource program (Program 3.1), which ws launched in 2020 (iResource – the new learning portal for students and teachers). All digital resources are made available through the online portal, which has been set up for the distribution of digital resources and open educational resources (OER). Finally, the 2015 National Broadcasting Policy supports the promotion of equality of access to broadcasting for individuals and communities throughout Solomon Islands, for participation in education, entertainment, cultural activity, business and democracy.
During the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, the MEHRD aimed for learning continuity through the development and use of online/e-learning tools and interactive radio instruction, as set out in the 2020 Covid-19 Education System Response Scenario Planning.
The MEHRD has prioritised the development of student digital skills in several strategy and plan documents, such as the 2016-30 Education Strategic Framework and the 2016-20 National Education Plan. The 2016-30 Education Strategic Framework supports the extension of quality and relevant secondary education to deliver both work-related skills and transferable skills, including entrepreneurial and ICT skills to increase the number of youth who have relevant skills for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship. It introduces additional content reforms in the curricula to ensure the delivery of key competences and work-related and transferable skills, including entrepreneurial and ICT skills by 2020. Similar goals are set forth in the 2016-20 National Education Plan, which specifically aims to increase the number of students achieving learning and work related skills (including entrepreneurial and ICT skills), with equity (gender and geographical indicators) by 10%. The 2022-27 National E-commerce Strategy aims to improve the digital skills focus at primary and secondary levels, and at the post-school education and training levels, which “should be a priority in the Government’s digital transformation journey”.
The expected technology competencies of learners are set out in the 2011 Solomon Islands National Curriculum Statement, which includes “technology” as one of the key learning outcomes for the whole school curriculum. Learners are specifically expected to have the ability to to use ICT tools, machins and materials comfortably, understand how to venture into self-reliance and paid employment with the use of basic technologies to improve their livelihoods and standard of living, develop skills and techniques to apply technological knowledge and skills in solving problems, and assess the effects and impacts of technology on individuals, societies, and environments in Solomon Islands (among others). Learning in technology is viewed to enable learners to develop technological skills, values, knowledge and understanding to make technological products. The 2016-20 National Education Action Plan – Implementation Framework similarly includes basic competence in science and technology and digital competence as key competencies for Life Long Learning, following the 2016-20 National Education Plan which reviewed the curriculum towards a competency-based framework. The development of STEM competencies, explicitly referring to mathematical, science and technology competencies are highlighted in the 2016-20 National Education Action Plan – Implementation Framework and 2011 Solomon Islands National Curriculum Statement.
According to the ICT4BE Gender Brief, the MEHRD aims to explore gender issues in ICT and education, particularly for TVET programs where males are disproportionately represented, and develop incentive schemes to increase women’s skills training in non-traditional areas. ICT will be used in teaching and learning to trigger more women/girls to undertake and pursue ICT studies as a career path, while the ICT4BE will carry out gender awareness training for pilot schools to help shift the stereotype mindset in education.
The 2011 Solomon Islands Teaching Service Handbook sets out the National Professional Standards for Teachers (Chapter 10) which all teachers should achieve, maintain and develop. One of these standards under Professional Knowledge (10.4) expects competent teachers to have knowledge about literacy, numeracy and information and communication technologies (ICT), which includes both their foundational importance to teaching and learning, as well as the strategies for incorporating these skills to support teaching and wider professional activities. The 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan aims to integrate more specific ICT competencies within these existing teacher professional standards under the iTeach initiative (Program 2.1). One of the objectives of the iTeach program is to develop an appropriate ICT competency framework for teachers in schools, based on the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, contextualised to the Solomon Islands. This framework would then shape the pre-service teaching curriculum provided by teacher training institutions, as well as ICT in-service training for existing teachers. Key targets under this objective include an ICT Competency Framework developed and contextualised by the end of 2019, the ICT Competency Framework to be included within the Teacher Professional Standards and Teaching Services Handbook, and 100% of new and existing teachers to have been trained to meet these basic competency standards by 2023.
The development of teacher digital skills is highlighted in several government documents for both pre-service and in-service training. While there was no formal training requirement obliging preservice or current teachers to demonstrate proficient ICT skills before entering the teaching service, the 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan, under the iTeach program (2.1) aims for the ICT Competency Framework to provide teacher training institutions with a structure from which they can improve or redevelop pre-service teacher courses to incorporate ICT skills and pedagogies. These standards will be used to develop or adjust mandatory ICT units for graduates,with the ICT Competency Framework additionally setting the standard to work towards for capacity-building existing teachers (in-service training), which would be aligned with the framework. Some of the key targets under iTeach are for all teachers (100%) from target schools to have received basic ICT skills and ICT-enhanced pedagogies training and be applying this knowledge and skill to support student learning by 2023. These objectives all fall under Goal 2 of the Master Plan, to “create an effective teaching and learning environment supported by quality digital resources and pedagogy.”
The 2017 National ICT Policy similarly enables teachers to make effective use of ICT in teaching by building their ICT capacity, establishing a platform for information-sharing and support among educators regarding ICT in education, and establishin networks for the sharing of e-learning resources. The 2016-20 National Education Plan also supports teachers in receiving curricular-related ICT-based in-service training by 2020.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the MEHRD planned to develop a teacher capacity building plan, as part of the 2020 Covid-19 Education System Response Scenario Planning.
2.4.1. Data privacy
The 2017 National ICT Policy supports the establishment of data security, data privacy, and cybersecurity laws, without any specific mention of the inclusion of education within these laws. The 1995 Consumer Protection Act does not make any specific mention to education.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
According to the 2017 National ICT Policy, the government aims to prepare guidance, information and tools for families, teachers, and child caregivers regarding the protection of children from harmful online content (including cyberbullying). Teachers and parents who care for or provide leadership for children and young people must work actively to protect them from online risks, with children entitled to be protected from bullying both online and on school grounds. The policy states that a legal framework must be put in place to deter and punish cybercrimes, aiming to strengthen national capacity to ensure regulation, civil law and laws against cybercrimes can be effectively administered and enforced. Child protection from harmful online content within the school environment is also provided in the 2015 National Broadcasting Policy, which states that in the school environment, teachers and school administrators must accept responsibility for the protection of children from undesirable broadcast content, with the government assisting parents, teachers, youth leaders and the providers of public computers to protect children from harmful content, providing them with readily accessible information regarding the responsible control of children’s use of broadcasting. During the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, the 2020 Covid-19 Education System Response Scenario Planning also aimed to provide child protection/safe guarding and psychosocial support for students through media platforms and other stakeholders/partners/sectors.
The 2020 National Security Strategy provides for the formulation of a cybersecurity strategy, policies, and legislation, without however referring explicitly to education.
The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD) is overall responsible for the integration of technology in education (particularly in the areas of teacher training, curricula, distance education, and data collection), as well as the development and implementation of key ICT in education documents, such as the 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan. Under the MEHRC, there is an established ICT Information Services Department, whose primary purpose is to effectively manage the ICT Services within the Ministry, Education Authorities, and schools and to provide information to use for policy planning, planning and implementation, decision making, monitoring and evaluation of the education system. Some of the division’s core functions include the management of the Ministry’s relationship with the ICT Support Unit (ICTSU) in the Ministry of Finance and Treasury (MoFT), the coordination of ICT services between MEHRD, Education Authority, and schools, the management of the annual ICT budget, and the collection of relevant ICT data from schools.
While the MEHRD takes a leading role in the implementation of the 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan, the integration of ICT in the education system involves co-operation, co-ordination and collaboration amongst stakeholders such as Education Authorities, SIG ICT Support Unit, Telecommunication Providers, Private Sector, Training Institutions, Donor Partners, School Management Committee, Parents and Local Community. Telecommunication providers, the private sector, external partners, and parents and local community members explicitly support the implementation of the Master Plan in various areas. Public-private partnerships are explicitly acknowledged as vital in the provision and ongoing support and maintenance of ICT services across the country. As proposed in the 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan, the integration of ICT in education also involves inter-sectoral and inter-agency coordination and cooperation, which is mainly coordinated through a Steering Committee (SC), Management Information Committee (MIC), and Technical Working Groups (TWG).
The Information and Communication Technology Support Unit (ICTSU) in the Ministry of Finance and Treasury (MoFT) collaborates with the MEHRD in the provision of ICT devices for schools (including infrastructure and connectivity). ICTSU is generally responsible for whole of government ICT Service delivery, including the coordination, delivery and support of ICT projects for the Solomon Islands Government (including the MEHRD). Besides the MEHRD and the ICTSU, ICT infrastructure and connectivity in schools is also supported by three non-state telecommunication and internet service providers (Solomon Telekom, bmobile and SATSOL) as part of a strategic partnership with the ICTSU to extend network connectivity to remote schools and strengthen network infrastructure development in the Solomon Islands.
The Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification provides rural school electrification in cooperation with the MEHRD, which recommends and supplies standalone solar systems for schools with minimum energy requirements.
The Ministry of Communications and Aviation (MCA) is responsible for the formulation and implementation of the 2017 National ICT Policy (which includes education objectives), through the Communication Division.
School leaders and their management committee will be fully involved in the implementation of the 2019-23 ICT in Education Master Plan programmes at the school level for the long term sustainability of the projects. The management of ICT devices in schools is guided by the ICT School Policy, with schools mainly responsible for managing the use of ICTs in classrooms, keeping in mind the general provisions, policies and regulatory frameworks that apply to schools and education. A system should be applied in schools to ensure the optimal use of ICTs, including a timetable for the use of the school computer laboratory and an asset management and booking system for all other items. Schools are responsible for developing specific rules concerning the use of ICT equipment in the classroom, as well as guidelines for access and use and security arrangements. The final responsibility for ensuring that ICTs are used effectively in the school lies with the principal and the SMT, through the appointment of an ICT Committee and at least one ICT Coordinator or champion from the staff roles. The use of mobile phones is only explicitly mentioned in relation to school principals and teachers, who are allowed to make use of these devices on school grounds.