The 2013 Education Act (revised in 2020) defines information communications technology (ICT) as “the use of technology to assist in more efficient management systems and analysis of information and for the purposes of this Act refers to the use of computer systems including internet and email, telephones and facsimiles”.
There is no mention of the term EdTech in the main government documents and policies.
Constitution and laws: There is no national ICT Act and Tonga’s 1875 Constitution (as amended in 2013) has no mention of technology or education.
The 2013 Education Act (revised in 2020) has a dedicated section on ICT which outlines the Ministry of Education and Trainings’ main responsibilities regarding ICT, stipulating that “The Ministry is responsible for: increasing the use of information and communications technologies for teaching and learning, and in the work of the Ministry” (Article 121). This includes the development of student and teacher ICT competencies, ICT infrastructure in schools, and the protection of students against cybercrime.
The 2015 Communications Act (Article 131) provides for universal communications services for underserved areas and groups (Article 66), which includes internet access.
The Ministry of Communications has published various laws and regulations relating to technology, such as the 2003 Computer Crimes Act and 2003 Radiocommunications Act, but neither of these laws refers to education.
Policies, plans and strategies: There is no national ICT in Education Policy or Strategy, with the government planning on developing an ICT in Education Policy in the near future.
The 2021 E-Commerce Strategy and Roadmap includes several objectives to enhance ICT infrastructure in schools and develop ICT skills.
The 2019-24 Digital Government Strategic Framework promotes the use of ICT within government agencies and ministries, aiming to extend the digital government platform to public education facilities. There are also specific objectives for the development of digital infrastructure and skills.
The 2008 National ICT Policy includes a pillar on Education and Skills Development, which outlines the development of ICT in the curriculum, the increase ICT literacy and awareness (including teachers’ professional development) as per international standards, the promotion of online and distance education, and the fostering of networking between schools, parents and communities. The policy also aims to increase access to ICT for disadvantaged groups, including early learners.
Tonga’s 2009 National ICT Strategy, which complements the national ICT Policy, is built on the “Connected Kingdom” vision, with the government recognizing ICT as an critical vehicle for economic development and the education sector as an important pillar in realizing this ambition.
The 2004-19 Tonga Education Policy Framework recognizes ICT as one of 17 areas for policy development and stipulates that the Kingdom of Tonga strives to develop an education system that equips students with the ICT skills needed for life in the 21st century. The framework has a dedicated ICT section that aims to develop an ICT policy for education in Tonga, analyse options for the use of ICT-based distance education, review practice on the use of ICT in education, and build ICT capacity throughout the system.
One of the seven national outcomes of the 2015-25 Tonga Strategic Development Framework are for the “more inclusive, sustainable and successful provision and maintenance of infrastructure and technology”. ICT is viewed as an important tool that links people across the Kingdom and the rest of the world for the delivery of key services by government and business and drawing communities more closely together. Technology is also viewed as an important tool for mitigating the difficulties of remoteness and distance and enhance the engagement of vulnerable and excluded groups.
Digital competency frameworks: The development of the digital competencies of teachers and students is highlighted in the 2013 Education Act (revised in 2020) and 2004-19 Tonga Education Policy Framework.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: In 2020, Tonga was hit by a tropical cyclone that had a major impact on education continuity and led to school closures. The government of Tonga developed contingency plans to respond quickly and mitigate learning loss, ensure education continuity, and strengthen the education system to be more resilient to future threats (which included COVID-19).
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
The 2013 Education Act (revised in 2020) aims to make electronic resources available to schools, particularly in rural areas and outer islands (Article 121). In addition, as part of the ‘Connected Kingdom’ vision, the 2009 ICT Strategy supported the development of technical infrastructure which would provide universal and affordable access to technology.
Electricity: The 2018 Government of Tonga Energy Efficiency Master Plan aims to achieve 50% rural electrification by 2020 and 70% by 2030. Utility-scale solar projects will be vital in achieving these targets, while additional incentives can be offered for schools. Accessible, affordable and sustainable electricity that is environmentally responsible and commercially viable is also a high priority in Tonga’s 2010-20 Energy Roadmap.
Computers and devices: The 2021 E-Commerce Strategy and Roadmap aims to provide computers in each high school and tertiary institution in Tonga. In addition, the strategy supports at least 70% of schools to incorporate multi-media educational materials in classrooms.
Tonga’s national ICT strategic plan aimed to design the Computers for Schools project and pilot by the end of 2011. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community additionally provided Tonga with technical assistance to implement a pilot One-Laptop-Per-Child project with appropriate governance, including measurement and evaluation components.
Internet connectivity: Internet connectivity is included as part of the universal service provisions in the 2015 Communications Act (Article 131).
The 2021 E-Commerce Strategy and Roadmap aims to provide an internet connection for each high school and tertiary institution in Tonga. The 2019-24 Digital Government Strategic Framework additionally promotes internet connectivity for all citizens, viewing internet access as a human right.
In 2013, the Tonga Telecommunication Corporation (TCC) in conjunction with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank jointly financed the establishment and operation of a Tonga-Fiji Submarine Cable Project. The high-speed internet project aims to provide a high-speed connection and help reduce the costs of high-speed Internet, making Internet access cheaper for individuals, businesses and especially education.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
Tonga has a long history of distance education, with the MoET broadcasting weekly, radio-based distance education programmes since 1963. The greater use of distance education is highlighted in several government documents, such as the 2004-19 Tonga Education Policy Framework, which aims to analyse options for the use of ICT-based distance education and enhance the use of distance education and ICT. The 2013 Education Act (revised in 2020) additionally plans to evaluate and adopt new ICT-based opportunities for delivering education, which includes distance education (Article 121). The official website of the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) also has dedicated pages for e-Learning platforms at both primary and secondary education levels.
During the global outbreak of COVID-19, the MoET engaged in a project unique in the region by implementing two trial “learn at home” days (in June and September 2020) as part of the COVID-19 Accelerated Resilience Program to prepare children, teachers, and caregivers for the possibility of nation-wide school closures and having to continue learning at home. Home-learning methods trialled were radio and television broadcasts of lessons (supplemented by online resources), and printed learning materials distributed or downloaded online from the MoET website. These trial days were also found to be a sound investment for future responses to natural hazards in Tonga (such as cyclones).
The development of student digital skills is highlighted in the 2013 Education Act (revised in 2020), which stipulates that the education system “provides all students with up to date skills in the use of information and communications technology” and “ensure(s) that students are competent in the use of information and communications technology” (Article 121). The 2004-19 Tonga Education Policy Framework also supports that all students are provided with up to date skills in the use of information technology, highlighting that students at all education levels should develop competence in using new ICTs.
Similarly, the 2021 E-Commerce Strategy and Roadmap supports for digital skills and knowledge to be available at all education levels, aiming to ensure a gender balance in terms of the opportunity to learn about ICT in schools. Similar objectives are set in the 2019-24 Digital Government Strategic Framework which supports the incorporation of digital skills development in all educational programs.
The 2022 National Cybersecurity Framework places emphasis on a cybersecurity curriculum, supporting the inclusion of cybersecurity topics in curricula of all education levels from primary to tertiary level.
The 2004-19 Tonga Education Policy Framework highlights that students at all education levels should develop competence in using new ICTs.
The 2013 Education Act (revised in 2020) aims to develop teacher competence in the use of ICTs, while the 2004-19 Tonga Education Policy Framework states that teachers will be trained on working with technology. The ICT Strategic Plan aimed to design a comprehensive ICT Teacher Training Plan by the end of 2009, while the 2008 National ICT Policy aims to increase ICT literacy and awareness (including teachers’ professional development). In 2019, the MoET hosted a teacher training program to develop the skills and knowledge of teachers and principals of primary schools on how to use technology.
The 2022 National Cybersecurity Framework additionally supports training teachers on cybersecurity topics.
2.4.1. Data privacy
The Digital Transformation Department is working on a Data Protection and Privacy Bill, Cybersecurity Bill and Cybercrimes Bill.
The 2003 Computer Crimes Act (revised in 2020) which regulates computer crime in Tonga, includes provisions on data privacy and unauthorized access to data, although there is no specific mention of education. The 2019 Computer Crimes Bill similarly has no mention of education.
The 2021 Data Exchange Policy and Framework is applicable to all public bodies in Tonga, laying out the basic conditions for building a secure data exchange ecosystem at all levels. According to the framework, security and privacy requirements should be considered in the provision of all public services, which must be compliant with the legal requirements and obligations regarding data protection and privacy. There is no explicit reference to schools.
The 2022 National Cybersecurity Framework similarly supports data privacy and protection, with no explicit mention of education institutions.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
According to the 2013 Education Act (revised in 2020), the Ministry of Education and Training has responsibility for ensuring the safety and and protection of students from cyber crime” (Article 121). The 2003 Computer Crimes Act (revised in 2020) makes no specific mention of education.
The Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) is responsible for ICT implementation within the education system, increasing the use of ICT for teaching and learning, and developing partnerships for the effective implementation and infrastructure for ICT, as stipulated in the 2013 Education Act. Funding for ICTs are comprised of funds from the Legislative assembly; external assistance from donors; industry assistance; and assistance from regional or international organisations in the information communications technology sector. The MoET analyzes the costs and capacity associated with maintaining and supporting ICT hardware and software, as well as appropriate schedules for equipment depreciation and replacement.
The Digital Transformation Department was established in 2022 as part of the Office of the Prime Minister and is responsible for the coordination of the e-Government program and digital initiatives of the government.
The ICT Advisory Committee was established under the 2013 Education Act to be responsible for the use of ICT in the education sector and to assist with the development an ICT in education policy for Tonga. The Tonga Institute of Higher Education (TIHE), part of the Ministry of Education, is the largest deployment of ICT education within Tonga.
The Ministry of Communications is responsible for ICT development n Tonga, with the objective for a “more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and successful provision and maintenance of infrastructure and technology” that links people across the Kingdom and with the rest of the world, and for the delivery of key services by the government and business. The Cyber Challenge Task Force under the Ministry of Communications aims to address the Tonga’s cyber challenges (including cybersafety, cybersecurity, and cybercrime). The membership is derived from Ministries of Police, Education and Health, the Office of the Attorney General, and others.
The government-owned Tonga Communications Corporation (TCC) provides local and international telecom services, including fixed-line connections, mobile phone services and Internet access, and can support ICT infrastructure development in schools.
There is no national ban on the use of mobile devices in schools.