The 2013 National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy defines information and communications technology (ICT) as “the technologies including computers, telecommunication, audio-visual systems, and postal systems that enable the collection, processing, transportation and delivery of information and communication services to users”. The 2014-31 National ICT Master Plan also includes a definition of ICT, which is “defined as any computer-based resource, networked or standalone, hardware or software or computer systems, communications and networks and other technology used in the interconnection. ICT is an umbrella term that encompasses any communication device, application, service as well as access. It includes: radio, television, fixed line phones, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems, as well as content, services and applications associated with them, such as media broadcasting, videoconferencing and distance learning”.
Open and Distance Learning is defined in the 2016 National Education Policy as “approaches to learning that focus on freeing learners from constraints of time and place while offering flexible learning opportunities. And /or any educational process in which all or most of the teaching is conducted by someone geographically removed from the learner, with all or most of the communication between teachers and learners being conducted through electronic or print media”. The 2014 Education Act includes the term ‘open and distance learning’ within its definition of a ‘school’.
There is no reference of the term education technology (EdTech) in official government documents.
Constitution and laws: The 2014 Education Act states that one of the national goals of the education system in Malawi is to “promote innovation and development of appropriate technologies”, while the national curriculum should promote “entrepreneurial and technological values and skills”. The 2015 National Education Standards and Constitution of the Republic of Malawi make no reference to ICT.
The 2016 Communications Act establishes the Malawi Communications and Regulatory Authority (MACRA) and makes provision for universal access to the internet (Art. 155), although there is no explicit reference to education institutions.
The 2003 Science and Technology Act provides for the regulation and advancement of science, technology and innovation for sustainable socio-economic development in Malawi and for the establishment of the the National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) to regulate, promote and coordinate the development and application of science, technology and innovation. The Act makes reference to education and training programs and the development of “appropriate science and technology curricula of the various levels of the education systems”.
Finally, the 2016 Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act addresses a number of ICT security issues such as cybercrime, data protection, and privacy, including provisions for the education sector.
Policies, plans and strategies: While there is no ICT in Education Policy, Plan or Strategy in Malawi, the government plans on developing one as part of the 2016 National Education Policy and 2020-30 National Education Sector Investment Plan. The country has several general ICT Policies and Plans, nearly all of which refer to education.
The 2013 National ICT Policy and the 2002 National Science and Technology Policy provide the main policy context for the use of ICT in Malawi, including in the education sector. The goal of the 2013 National ICT Policy is to contribute to socio-economic development through maximum integration of ICT in all sectors (including education) and the provision of ICT services to the rural areas. Some of the key priorities are the development of ICT infrastructure and human capacity in the use of technology. The policy promotes the use of ICT at all education levels to increase access and quality of education, enhance ICT literacy, and improve the management of education systems. The 2014-31 National ICT Master Plan was then developed to operationalize the 2013 National ICT Policy, with several of its objectives related to education.
The 2002 National Science and Technology Policy aims to promote, integrate and coordinate science, technology and innovation to support socio-economic development in Malawi, supported by the 2003 Science and Technology Act. It aims to strengthen science and technology programs at all education levels.
The 2016 National Education Policy also includes several objectives related to ICT, such as teacher training and infrastructure.
In the 2020-30 National Education Sector Investment Plan, an emphasis is made on ICT-enabled pedagogy to improve the quality of teaching and learning, as well as the development of an ICT in Education Policy to strengthen administration, financial management and accountability in the education system. One of the plan’s strategies is to “develop and implement ICT Policy and Strategy to improve capacity and efficiency”.
Vision 2020 and Malawi 2063 also envisage Malawi as a technologically driven middle income economy. According to Malawi 2063, the education system should be redesigned to respond to the current and future skills needs, with advances in science, technology and innovation being promoted and leveraged.
The 2017-22 Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III) supports increased access to information and communications services and the improving of the regulatory framework of the ICT sector.
Digital competency frameworks: In 2018, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology developed a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Framework for teachers and teacher educators to ensure their increased knowledge and skills as well as teaching competencies. This includes ICT skills and digital learning as a key component.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: The 2020-30 National Education Sector Investment Plan aims to build capacity among communities to respond to COVID-19 or similar pandemics in future through the increased promotion of alternative modes of education delivery, including Open and Distance Learning.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Malawi is committed to developing a a safe, affordable, reliable, equitable and sustainable ICT infrastructure, as envisioned in the 2017-22 Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III). The 2013 National ICT Policy similarly aims to develop the ICT Infrastructure in order to improve access and delivery of services (including education) as well as reduce communication costs. Similar goals are included in Malawi 2063, which aims to develop robust ICT infrastructure with cross-country coverage that fosters technological adoption and digital access.
Electricity: The 2017-22 Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III) supports the development of the Malawi Rural Electrification Project to increase access to electricity in rural areas for key social and development areas, but there is no specific mention of education or schools (only health facilities and trade centers). The 2013 National ICT Policy supports the provision of ICT services in rural areas and to vulnerable groups. Malawi 2063 (published after the COVID-19 pandemic) aims for all constituencies across the country to be assured a bare minimum level of socioeconomic amenities aimed at promoting good quality of life for all, which includes primary and secondary schools that take into account existing population and reliable electricity. Moreover, ne of the strategic objectives of the 2020-30 National Education Sector Investment Plan is to “increase access and equity to secondary education for all eligible students, with particular focus on girls, vulnerable groups and other categories of students that find access difficult, including those travelling longer distances in rural areas”. Strategies under this objective include the expansion of secondary school infrastructure to improve access (taking into account gender and learners with special educational needs) and procuring and maintaining solar power equipment for schools. The Plan specifically monitors the number of schools that have an electricity source (ESCOM, generator, or solar power). The source of electricity for schools is the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi Limited (ESCOM). According to the 2018/19 Education Sector Performance Report, solar electricity facilities have also been installed in schools.
Computers and devices: The 2014-31 National ICT Master Plan aims towards “building a knowledge society through ICT enriched learning”, with strategies including computers and connectivity for all, one laptop for every child, a computer laboratory in all secondary schools, and computer resource centre per school cluster. According to the 2013 National ICT Policy, the government has been implementing an e-Schools initiative where computer laboratories with internet access are being implemented in public schools. The 2020-30 National Education Sector Investment Plan supports the procurement and maintenance of ICT gadgets (including tablets and solar powered equipment) for schools with the goal of enhancing learner outcomes through the use of ICT enabled pedagogy. The Plan also aims to procure computer devise for digitising learners books and facilitators guides, as well as procuring and distributing assistive devices for learners with special needs in primary schools. The procurement of assistive devices in schools is also included in the 2017-21 National Strategy on Inclusive Education. Malawi 2063 also aims to equip academic institutions with “world-class laboratories”. To reduce the cost of digital devices and equipment, import duty has been removed from preassembled computers and printers.
The Unlocking Talent: E-Learning for Primary Education project (which has been implemented in Malawi since 2013), focuses on equipping students with digital technology to address major education challenges such as lack of teachers, learning resources and classrooms. Specifically, the program makes use of tablet technology to facilitate tailored and interactive learning for primary school learners in early grades. Children learn through customized, low-cost tablets, which are pre-installed with offline applications containing learning material. The tablets are accessed in solar powered learning centres, with lessons being led by teachers trained in digital education technology. In 2021, Unlocking Talent was supporting 150,000 learners in 15 districts, aiming to reach out to 225,600 learners by 2023. The project is implemented by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
The School Net Malawi and Computers for African Schools Malawi have also been distributing recycled computers to schools.
Internet connectivity: The 2016 Communications Act makes provision for universal access to the internet (Art. 155), although there is no explicit reference to education institutions. School Net Malawi has been established as a non-governmental, non-profit organization that provides and facilitates access to ICT in Malawian schools. The government has also established a government-wide area network and has made steps in making broadband internet affordable and available in rural areas. The 2017-22 Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III) aims towards a well-developed ICT broadband infrastructure service provision, with strategies including the development of a reliable, fast, adaptive and robust ICT infrastructure, promoting the integration of ICT in core sector policies and strategies, and creating a conducive environment to attract investment in ICT infrastructure and services.
To contribute towards the realization of these strategies, the government signed a contract with Telekom Networks Malawi in 2020 for the provision of free public Wi-Fi under the Public-Private Partnership Commission’s Digital Malawi project. The Public-Private Partnership Commission has completed procurement of a service provider for free Wi-Fi zones (Telekom Networks Malawi) in some 30 sites throughout the country. Among the many targeted places for the pilot phase of this project, the commission is expected to reach out to about 16 secondary schools.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The 2020-30 National Education Sector Investment Plan supports the establishment of a digitalized curriculum platform, radio programs for interactive radio instruction, and the expansion of open and distance learning through print modules, radio programs, and television stations. The Plan additionally aims on digitalizing learner books and facilitator guides. Similarly, one of the goals of the 2017-22 Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III) is to strengthen complementary basic education modalities for learners, which includes radio instruction and open and distance learning. The 2016 National Education Policy also has quality and equitably accessed open and distance learning as one of its policy priority areas. ICT in education is also used in the form of digital libraries, assignment distribution, examinations via online platforms, delivery of lessons via computers and LCD projectors, and group work through online collaborative spaces.
During the school closures that resulted from COVID-19 in 2020, Malawi aimed to ensure learning continuity through the short-term 2020 National COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan. The government developed learning continuity programs in the form of radio, television, online platforms, and textbooks and study guides for the poorest students. The Plan gives special attention to vulnerable groups such as orphans, students with disabilities, girls, refugees, and students from low-income households. According to the 2020-30 National Education Sector Investment Plan, the government plans on building capacity among communities to respond to COVID-19 or similar pandemics in the future and further promote alternative modes of education delivery such as Open and Distance Learning.
The promotion and development of student digital skills and STEM subjects in the curriculum is included in numerous legal, policy and strategy documents. According to the 2014 Education Act, the national curriculum should promote “entrepreneurial and technological values and skills”. The 2016 National Education Policy specifically aims to introduce and intensify computer lessons in schools, promote awareness of science, technology and innovation, review the science curriculum to include practical components, and promote the use of ICT in Open and Distance Learning. One of the policy’s priority areas is Enhanced Science, Technology and Innovation in Education. The Policy also supports the promotion of gender equity and equality in the learning and application of science and technology by encouraging remedial courses for sciences for female and special needs students and promoting affirmative action on student selection for science and technology courses. The 2020-30 National Education Sector Investment Plan similarly supports the enhancement of STEM subjects at the secondary level, in addition to promoting women’s access to science and technology at all education levels. Similar goals are set in the 2002 National Science and Technology Policy, which supports gender equity in science and technology subjects and promoting science and technology skills at all education levels. Through the 2017-22 Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III), the government aims on reforming the education system specifically in regards to STEM subjects, which is similarly envisioned in Malawi 2063, where Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) courses, in particular, aim to be strengthened as a key to innovation and job creation.
Malawi recognizes the importance of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for teachers. In 2018 the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology developed a CPD framework for teachers and teacher educators to ensure increased knowledge and skills as well as teaching competencies for teachers and teacher educators. This includes core ICT skills and encourages the incorporation of digital learning. The CPD Framework has been disseminated and rolled out to key stakeholders (teachers and primary education advisers) across Malawi.
The development of teachers’ ICT skills is highlighted in several policy and strategy documents. The 2016 National Education Policy and 2002 National Science and Technology Policy both explicitly aim to strengthen science and technology education through training of more teachers in science and technology, in addition to introducing a science specialization within teacher training. At secondary level, the 2002 policy additionally aims to increase the number of science and technology teachers with at least a bachelor’s degree and train more science and technical teachers. Similar goals are set in the 2020-30 National Education Sector Investment Plan, which supports institutionalizing STEM, ICT Science and Technology in teachers’ development and curriculum development. The Plan additionally aims to construct ICT laboratories in teacher training centers, conduct training on computerized teaching aids, and institutionalize alternative modes of teaching such as open and distance learning. The 2014-31 National ICT Master Plan also supports the training of primary and secondary school teachers on ICTs in education, aiming to create a critical mass of ICT literate teachers. This goal builds on one of the policy objectives of the 2013 National ICT Policy which supports the development of a large pool of highly skilled ICT personnel.
In 2018, the Department of Teacher Education and Development additionally decided to extend the in-service training of teachers in mathematics and science under the Strengthening Mathematics and Science in Secondary Education programme to other subject areas, and developed and disseminated a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Framework to key education stakeholders across Malawi. The 2007-17 National Strategy for Teacher Education and Development provides specific guidelines for the establishment of a coherent and responsive teacher education and development program towards the professionalization of teachers in Malawi.
Development partners have also been working to equip teachers in Malawi with digital skills. The Malawi National Commission for UNESCO partnered with Domasi College of Education in 2017 to train trainers from teacher training colleges on transformative pedagogy in Global Citizenship Education, where the ICT component was covered. In 2020, training on Global Citizenship Education involved teachers in primary and secondary schools, whose capacities were also built in transformative pedagogy, which covered the use of modern digital teaching methods. Moreover, the Basic Education Program of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) supports the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to develop and implement the Blended Learning Course on Inclusive Education, which is implemented through an ICT-based learning format.
The government also places importance on using technology in teaching and learning, as evidenced by the revised Initial Primary Teacher Education curriculum, which includes as a core element, ICT as a tool for teaching and learning. The goal is for teachers to demonstrate an understanding of the purpose and use of ICT and apply it to research, teaching, learning and assessment processes.
2.4.1. Data privacy
Section 21 of Malawi’s Constitution provides that every person shall have the right to personal privacy. In 2021, Malawi aimed to actualise this constitutional provision in terms of “processing of personal data wholly or partly by automated means” through the publishing of a draft Data Privacy and Protection Bill in 2021, with the legislative process expected to accelerate in 2022. The Bill provides for principles governing the processing of personal data in an accurate, safe, secure, lawful manner and used only within the ambit of the law. The principles include fairness and transparency (Clause 18), prohibition of processing of sensitive personal data (clause 19), obtaining consent prior to processing data of a minor (clause 20), the burden of proof for establishing a data subject’s consent being borne by the data controller (clause 21), and providing all the necessary information to the data subject prior to direct collection (clause 22). Under clause 20 the Bill aims to guarantee the protection of children’s privacy.
The 2016 Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act addresses a number of ICT security issues, including privacy and data protection issues, and includes the education sector. The Act aims to protect community and individual interests and address ethical issues in the use of ICT to protect the rights of children and the under-privileged. It includes a separate section on data protection and privacy, with provisions such as ensuring personal data is processed fairly and legally. Personal data must also be collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and can only be processed if the data subject has unambiguously given consent. The 2013 National ICT Policy also supports the promotion of national security, referring to the undesirable impacts of ICTs including the violation of privacy, spread of undesirable materials, cyber-crimes, digital frauds and terrorism.
In 2018, the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO introduced a Digital Wellness and Information Ethics programme for computer studies teachers in secondary schools across the country. The targeted schools introduced computer clubs that were imparting skills on digital wellness and information ethics. In addition, in 2020, UNESCO organized a teacher training workshop on media literacy, cyber and digital wellness and information ethics.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
The 2019-24 National Cybersecurity Strategy aims to provide a national framework for ensuring secure, safe and resilient cyberspace, as well as fostering trust and confidence in cyberspace. It includes the education sector, with one of its objectives being to continuously develop and enhance the cybersecurity technical capacity in Malawi. Under this objective, the strategy specifically supports reviewing and updating primary, secondary and tertiary level education curriculum to include cybersecurity elements, supporting cybersecurity competitions and projects in schools and universities, collaborating with universities and colleges on the introduction of new studies and internship programs on cybersecurity, developing and implementing cybersecurity training and capacity building training plans for government personnel, and creating standards in cybersecurity training and education.
The 2013 National ICT Policy also includes elements on national security, with policy statements on creating statutory obligations for ICT service providers to address security needs of the country, enhancing the capacity of security agencies to be up to date with developments in the ICT sector (including cyber crimes), and promoting the use of ICTs to mitigate crimes and enhance public security.
According to the 2016 Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority is responsible for implementing public educational programs on the safe use of internet focusing specifically on the scope of cybercrimes, tips on safe cyber experience, promotion of educational uses of Internet, and remedies and procedures when affected by cybercrime.
The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) provides regulatory oversight of the ICT sector in Malawi and ensures compliance to relevant cybersecurity frameworks within the sector. This includes the coordination and implementation of the 2019-24 National Cybersecurity Strategy through collaboration with other stakeholders and addressing the ICT access gap in rural and remote areas.
The National Commission for Science and Technology advises the government and other stakeholders on all matters relating to science and technology, which includes promotion and advocacy towards the development of science and technology human resources by building capacity in science and technology education and training programmes and providing assistance in the development of appropriate science and technology curricula of the various levels of the education systems.
The 2016 National Education Policy provides the responsibilities of different ministries, institutes, organizations and services, without defining the specific responsibilities of schools. The implementation institutional framework is geared towards ensuring that the public sector assumes a leading role while realizing the increased role of partners, private sector, NGOs and the community members. The MoEST liases with educational institutions and organizations to develop and implement programmes and other relevant issues, while communities, families and parents provide general management of schools, mobilize resources, and provide learners with their physical and social needs. There is no specific definition of responsibilities of schools in relation to technology devices in Malawi’s ICT policies and strategies.