ICT and Education
The use and integration of ICT in building inclusive knowledge societies for all and for overall socio-economic development is increasingly on the agenda of almost all developing countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. ICT are seen as an important catalyst and accelerator for development, having the ability to attract investment, create job opportunities, promote knowledge building and sharing, facilitate innovation and contribute to good governance and more efficient and transparent provision of public services. ICT facilitate inclusiveness by enabling citizens anywhere to access information and knowledge. ICT together with education empower citizens to be aware of their rights and to participate actively in shaping public policy, governance and development.
In the development of inclusive knowledge societies the education and training sector is mainly responsible for producing skilled human resources required by industry as well as citizens who can participate in building a well governed society. ICT in turn can contribute to widening access to education, improving educational management and addressing issues of quality and relevance of the education system that are perennially faced by developing countries.
GESCI’s work is focused on addressing these major issues facing education today by helping countries and partners leverage the power and potential of ICT.
Improving access and equity: GESCI assists countries to consider the appropriate uses of ICT in order to take learning beyond the classroom. Examples include addressing the shortage of teachers required for Universal Primary Education (UPE), extending vocational skills training to underprivileged or marginalized populations, creating new electronic learning materials to support teaching and learning and using ICT to reach students with special needs to enable them to participate effectively in learning and to thus make education truly inclusive.
Improving quality of education: Education reports from almost all developing countries point to quality as one of the biggest issues developing country education systems face. The 2010 EFA Global Monitoring Report notes that “Many countries are failing the quality test.ICT play an important role in improving the quality of education in developing countries. Much of GESCI’s work in the past, and indeed the technology in education community’s work has focused on issues of quality. Interventions supported have included the creation of digital learning materials and guidelines for evaluating digital content, development of teachers’ ICT competencies, and review and modification of ICT curricula.
Improving the efficiency of education systems: The education system is a complex system that requires good management and administration if it is to be efficient and effective. ICT have proven themselves in almost every other industry, especially the private sector and increasingly in the public sector as well, in supporting management and administration. ICT enable teacher, planners, managers and policy makers to access to educational data when they need it. ICT also enable direct interaction between schools and teachers with parents fostering community engagement. They can be used to promote transparency and openness by making educational data including financing available to the public. This potential of ICT is acknowledged by governments with the deployment of Educational Management Information Systems (EMIS) in many developing countries. GESCI has worked on various EMIS initiatives aiming to strengthen educational management and improve transparency.
ICT and the demand for new skills: ICT skills make a critical contribution to socio-economic development because of their central importance to the knowledge economy. ICT can also contribute to the development of other important knowledge economy “new millennium” skills such as critical thinking, information retrieval, analytical capacity, problem solving, communication and ability to understand and manipulate new media. Another dimension to skills development can be found in the technical and vocational training sector where the introduction and use of ICT to develop ICT skills and competencies is in great demand.
ICT – not a magic bullet! Context, feasibility and suitability matter
It is wrong and dangerous to imagine that ICT is a panacea or magic bullet for the legions of problems and challenges facing education and training today. Placing ICT in schools will not automatically improve teaching or learning or even guarantee the acquisition of ICT skills. ICT is only a tool - an enabling platform with a lot of potential - but the focus should be on addressing educational challenges, objectives and priorities. Furthermore, developing countries must look at their own context, and be aware of the role other factors, such as the availability of electricity, play in their educational contexts.
Other challenges that countries must address to realize the potential of ICT include the limited and expensive ICT infrastructure, and a weak policy environment and human and institutional capacity constraints. ICT infrastructure is now increasingly available which is why it is even more important to address issues of policy and capacity. Governments need to develop enabling policies based on vision and evidence as well as operational strategies to implement the policies. They also need to develop human and institutional capacities including raising awareness of the potential of new technology and how best to exploit these new technologies in new approaches and solutions to existing challenges such as education for all, efficient education management, openness and good governance.
The development of inclusive knowledge societies that grants all citizens access to education, information, freedom of speech and employment can be significantly accelerated by ICT but such developments must also be guided by concern for the environment, making sure that issues such as e-waste are taken care of in sustainable ways and that mechanisms are devised to ensure the benefits are made available to all and not only privileged groups.
GESCI assists countries to think through the various issues helping develop the required awareness, understanding and capabilities for government agencies all the way down to the learning delivery agents.