In Syria, UNDP helps to launch "interactive schools"

20 Dec 2010

By Faten Tibi

20 December 2010, Damascus, Syria — UNDP has partnered with a multinational energy company and the government to introduce “interactive” schools, bringing closer students, parents and teachers through information and communications technology.  

The three-way partnership — forged by Total E&P, the Ministries of Education and Telecommunications and UNDP Syria — has fortified with technology 15 pilot schools in the Deir-Ezor region, one of the poorest in the country, enabling students, parents and community members to actively interact with one another without having to be at the same place at the same time.  Five schools in the capital Damascus has also benefited from this initiative.

“Thanks to this, we have discovered how the Internet can be useful,” said a parent at the Al-Soukarieh school in Deir-Ezor during a parent-teacher meeting.

Each pilot school has been equipped with computer stations, high-speed internet connection, printers, video projectors, digital cameras and software tools that allow them to maintain their own websites and publish information online.  Students in these schools can now freely access the Internet and participate in online forums.    

The partners implemented the project with the aim of improving management processes, increasing access to information, and strengthening the relationship between the schools and the communities.  UNDP’s role was that of a catalyst.  As the Ministry of Education contemplated implementing this initiative, it brought potential schools to the Ministry and found a private company that was willing to be part of the educational initiative.

The initiative immediately gave tangible results.  Work processes in the 20 schools became simplified and automated, eliminating all the paperwork.  Moreover, teachers and parents have acquired valuable skills to use modern technology, through which they communicate and work more closely to manage the schools and share their views on the students’ progress.  

The introduction of technology to schools in poor rural areas has also enabled students to conduct more in-depth research.  For parents, it has enabled them to follow up more easily on their children’s progress without having to be in the school premise and sometimes even from abroad.  

Total E&P contributed a total of $450,000, purchasing computers and software in the 20 pilot schools.  Part of the fund was also used to train the school staff and teachers, who in turn trained the students and parents.  Parents were especially encouraged by school officials to take advantage of the equipments to be more tech-savvy.
 
As soon as the project launched, government officials received instant requests from multiple schools to be part of the interactive school initiative.  The education ministry is now considering introducing similar initiatives to all the schools in Syria in 2011.