Sensemaking Meetup: A Case for a Systems Approach to EdTech in Low and Middle Income Countries

By Arnaldo Pellini and Dora Hietavirta

The Sensemaking meetup is Systems Change Finland’s monthly meetup where we explore topics related to applied Systems Thinking and Complexity with interesting speakers. Instead of being one-sided lectures, our meetups are spaces where participants can also make sense about the topics with each other.

In October’s meetup last Thursday (14th of October) we hosted Akanksha Bapna, lead author of A Case for a Systems Approach to EdTech, research fellow with ODI and working with the EdTech Hub programme. The event was held in Zoom and streamed on Youtube with about 18 people joining live.

The speaker

Akanksha lives in Delhi and is about to move to London. She has worked extensively on K-12 Education, bridging the gap between practice, policy and research. For close to a decade, she has integrated qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches in her work, researching and measuring the impact of education interventions across India, Nepal, Tanzania, USA, Colombia, Italy and the Netherlands. Her expertise has been applied to research designs and evaluations for the work of organizations such as Google, the Pearson Group, the British Council, as well as the LEGO Foundation. In addition to directing impact evaluations, Akanksha has also been advising on strategy for high quality data collection and evaluations in order to build a culture of data and evaluation at the policy level for state governments in India. She holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge, and a Masters’ degree in International Education Policy from Harvard University.

During the webinar we speak about what inspired Akanksha to lead the research work for the paper that gives the total to this Meetup. In other words, why did she feel that she and her team had to make the case for a system approach to understanding the implications of EdTech for middle and low income countries.

As mentioned in the paper, according to the World Bank report from 2020 more than half the children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read a simple text by age ten. Technology has the potential to improve learning outcomes, not only by directly impacting students and teachers, but also by improving the efficiency of education systems. However, efforts to design and use technology to strengthen education are often confounded by contextual differences in implementation and challenges with scale and sustainability. Traditional approaches to understanding and researching EdTech appear inadequate as they break down the problems into simplistic components, failing to include the dynamic and interactive nature of the system. Understanding where and how to use EdTech and maximise its impact therefore requires a view of education systems that is more than a sum of inputs and outcomes.

Watch the recording:


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Arnaldo Pellini

Founder of • Associate @ODIdev • governance innovation • knowledge systems • problem-driven development • • own view