Education Through the Lens of Technology in SA Schools

The South African government is currently investing a good deal of state expenditure to improve the quality of education in the country. There is however room for improvement on a national scale. The implementation of digital devices and platforms has the potential to affect major positive changes.

What is the context of education in South Africa? Here are some quick facts…

  • All citizens have the right to a basic education, including adult basic education and access to further education [1].

  • Education is compulsory from grades 1 to the completion of grade 9.

  • The country has one of the highest rates of public investment in the sector –20% of total state expenditure.

  • The average ratio of learners to teachers is 30.4 to 1 – typically more in public schools

  • The 2015 matric exam pass rate has dropped to 70.7% from 75.8% in the 2014.

Weighing out global standards, South Africa is moving in the right direction. However, there is major room for improvement when it comes to education. The country has roughly 9 million illiterate adults; also, teachers in township schools are often not sufficiently trained for their positions [2]. We need to be resourceful in closing the gap – what are some of the technologies that are being utilised in this regard?

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E-Readiness

The World Economic Forum reported that in terms of ‘e-readiness’ South Africa had dropped from 47th to 70th place from 2007 to 2013. Consequently a national e-skills plan was developed. ‘The Big Switch On’ is a program in line with the plan. It was responsible for the introduction of digital tablets for learners in 7 Gauteng schools at the beginning of 2015. While results have been promising, this is a costly investment. To turn over completely to the digital system is expected to cost R17-billion over the next 5 years [3].

“Digital technology ­simply provides today’s pupils with the means to maximise the advantages of collaborative learning by being connected.” Michael Rice (Michael Rice runs the Programme for Educational Tablets in Schools Foundation.)

Open Resources

One brand that is making headway in this vein is Vodacom with its ‘E-School’ initiative [4]. This program is endorsed by the Department of Basic Education and free for those on the network. It provides learning material for grades 4-12 that can be accessed on smart phone, tablet or desktop computer. The platform is interactive – video content of lessons accompanied by tools to revise and evaluate progress are built in features. Top Dog has partnered with Vodacom to offer the premium and paid-for option for personalised and more in-depth learning.

Digital based learning provides ease of use and engaging content. Undoubtedly it would provide benefit to any student using them. Those who do not have access to the appropriate device forfeit the option – perhaps with further investment from government, tools such as these may reap very notable benefits for the state of education in the country.

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The educational industry has been particularly interesting lately with a range of primary and high school subjects being reversioned, translated and turned into interactive activities for use on cellphones and tablets. We have worked on a number of these projects and it has been a great experience.

It seems that technology as a teaching aid is developing into a leading force behind education in South Africa.

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