Timor-Leste’s Learning Passport platform is not only providing access to a new way of learning for children in the country, it has also been recognized for the quick uptake by users in the three months since it was launched. Users include both teachers and learners.
The Learning Passport was originally developed by Microsoft, UNICEF and and the University of Cambridge’s Cambridge University Press and Cambridge Assessment to help reach refugee children and support continued learning. Timor-Leste was amongst the first three countries to adapt it to online learning for children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Timor-Leste’s Learning Passport platform has over 23,000 users, by far the largest of the 17 countries in which it has been recently introduced. It already has 142 e-books from the school curriculum, from basic education, secondary school and vocational training, almost 70 video lessons and homework assignments, 60 library books, as well as books for pre-school children and courses for parents and teachers. The library also includes a book that helps parents and guardians explain COVID-19 to children with special needs. Additional material, including for adolescents and youth, are being developed.
For the first time in Timor-Leste, teachers have also undergone training online, with over 17,400 taking a training administered by the National Institute for Teacher Training to ensure teachers are acquainted with COVID-19 guidelines ahead of the reopening of the schools as safe places of learning.
The Learning Passport was introduced as part of the ‘Eskola Ba Uma’ (School Goes Home) initiative, which was developed by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to support continued learning using as many platforms as possible.
Timor-Leste recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on 21 March. Over the course of that weekend, some 400,000 children were told their schools would be shut from the following Monday to protect them and prevent the spread of the disease.
“We moved extremely fast. We had television programmes being broadcast within a week of schools being closed. One week later, we had launched the Learning Passport and for the first time ever, we now have the entire curriculum online,” says Valérie Taton, UNICEF’s Representative in Timor-Leste. “The Learning Passport has helped us reimagine the future of education – from purely school or physical space reliant learning to online studying and training.”
UNICEF also launched the Learning Passport mobile application in Timor-Leste, which allows students to download curriculum materials so they can study them offline. In order to limit the barrier for teachers and learners, all of the country’s mobile phone operators have also provided free access to the platform using their networks.
“Growing up, I had little access to textbooks and digital learning resources. This year, that changed for many children with the introduction of the Learning Passport, where all of them can now access the national curriculum books online. I am so proud of being able to help make that change for children, creating tools and raising awareness to help them continue to learn beyond school closures,” said Isabela Assis, a UNICEF volunteer and Coordinator of the Youth Advisory Group set up with support from UNICEF.
As schools continue re-opening through August 2020, the Ministry of Education is hoping to continue promoting the Eskola Ba Uma initiative and the online learning platform as a means of helping children who do not go to school to be able to continue learning, and also to provide access to courses that are tailored to suit adolescents and youth.