e-Learning in South Africa

There has been a real push in South African schools, to introduce technology and ICT into the classrooms.   The recommendations come from research that was completed over ten years ago however some of the provinces are still having trouble implementing these slightly older technology standards.

The report was prepared by the publishers Via Afrika, they have collected information from schools and colleges across the country to try and assess the progress of the e-learning reforms in South Africa.    The report has now been published under the title “Snapshot of e-Learning in South African Schools”, it focuses specifically on technology and how it has been implemented in schools.  There is a caveat though with this report, there is no specification about the sample size and how many schools were surveyed in compiling this document.

durban-schools

Durban Schools have High Levels of ICT Provision

One of the positive findings were in the survey, eight provinces had extremely progressive and positive attitudes about using ICT in their classrooms although the locations were not specified.  Six more were committed to increasing the amount of technology used in classes but were not yet ready to implement yet.  There is some implication that the rest of the provinces were less engaged with utilising technology but again due to the lack of information on the scope of the study is unclear.

All the provinces looked to a series of previously written reports as their preferred frameworks – these were respected research papers.  These include a white paper on e-education drafted in 2004 and some governmental guidelines for teacher training and ICT development.  This is perhaps a worry because it shows that even with recommendations made nearly a decade ago, some provinces still feel that they will be unable to implement these guidelines.  There are many countries who’s schools are way in advance of these recommendations – some schools in the Far East for instance already routinely buy VPN solutions to enable students to reach normally geoblocked content (like the BBC and international media sites).

Many countries feel under pressure to improve their ICT provision, and one of the most efficient enablers is the skills of the teachers.  The report suggested that only around 25% of teachers had received basic training in ICT and computers.  There is little chance of e-Learning plans being implemented successfully without first ensuring teachers had the skills to deliver any curriculum changes.

There are other positives, one reason that South Africa has lagged behind many other developed countries has previously been the poor levels of infrastructure but this seems to be changing.  In all of the provinces surveyed apart from the Northern Cape, there are reasonable levels of coverage including GPRS, 2G and 3G.  However although many more schools now have internet connections, they are still in the minority with a 50% level of schools connected should be achieved by 2016.   The improved infrastructure  does mean that many more pupils have access at home although internet access is much more expensive than many other countries.  There is evidence though that some parents have been enabling their children’s education themselves, by accessing internet resources – like iplayer online or through many of the online courses offered by Universities and colleges across the world.