ICT is often referenced as a key to unlocking the innovative and impactful delivery of education. A panel discussion held at The Trialogue Business in Society Conference 2017 explored the potential of ICT in education. The discussion also addressed the practical and ongoing challenges to harnessing its full potential – including issues of access, connectivity, resistance by teachers and duplication of efforts due to the lack of cohesion between relevant stakeholders.
“Teachers are the custodians of ICT in terms of passing it on,” said Nick Rockey, session facilitator and Managing Director of Trialogue. “For this reason, their interest and acceptance of ICT as a development tool is vital.”
Rabia Awasi, Programme Manager for Mobile Education at Vodacom Foundation, said that the biggest challenge that she has encountered is change management, as teachers oppose the use of ICT either because they find it threatening or intimidating, or because they are not well-equipped with the skills needed to integrate ICT into their teaching environments. Awasi explained that it is difficult, but important, to help teachers understand that ICT equipment and technology are meant to enhance the delivery of education, rather than take over their jobs.
Connectivity and broad access
Dr Aaron Nkosi, Director for Curriculum and Teacher Development Research at the Department of Basic Education, said that Government is working on a number of digital and e-strategies. For example, teacher centres have been established, giving teachers access to a range of digital resources. The next challenge is to create awareness about such initiatives. To help drive uptake, Vodacom has initiated a Digital Classroom to which over 60 000 teachers are currently registered.
S’onqoba Maseko, Chief Operations Officer at Sifiso Learning Group, noted that addressing access issues does not automatically mean that people are going to use technology. “There is an element of learning how to use technology, which is as important as having access to it,” she said. Maseko believes that students need to be encouraged to use their devices in the classroom for research and knowledge-sharing purposes.
Knowledge-sharing crucial for impact
About the broad range of ICT education initiatives being implemented across the country, the panel agreed that not all of them could or should necessarily be scaled to schools across the country. Panellists discussed the need for relevant stakeholders from the private and public sectors to share experiences and lessons, and to embrace collaboration, as opposed to competition, since the end goal of improving education is the same.
The importance of research was also highlighted. Panellists emphasised the need for stakeholders to share case studies and insights about successes, challenges and failures, which could help to avoid the duplication of unsuccessful programmes.
Maseko underscored the need for collaboration between companies and the public sector. “At Vodacom, we value partnerships – we know what our strengths are. We knock on the Department of Education’s door to say, this is what we have; how do we best meet your needs or objectives so that we can all work together,” said Awasi.
Vodacom, like many other operators, have partnered with the Department. As a result of this partnership, Vodacom has ‘zero-rated’ educational websites, allowing subscribers to access these resources at no cost.
On measuring success of ICT education initiatives, Dr Aaron Nkosi used the example of the Internet Broadcast Programme, which has been implemented in the Free State and has resulted in a pass rate of over 80%.
Maseko believes that there are many measures of success, including access to tertiary education, starting a business and finding employment. The important factor, she said, is to identify what types of skills are required for success and to measure the development of these skills.
This session was presented in partnership with
- Aaron Nkosi, Department of Basic Education
- Rabia Awasi, Vodacom Foundation
- S’onqoba Maseko, Sifiso Learning Group
- Nick Rockey, Trialogue (facilitator)