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Aside
22 Oct

Creative and innovative applications of ICTs have long been seen as important potential tools to enable educational reform
processes improving both access to education, and the quality of that education. That said, let’s be honest: based on their use
to date, there is very little compelling, rigorously gathered evidence that ICTs can provide positive, cost-effective impact on
the way education is delivered and practiced across Africa – nor on the impact of this use on student learning. Does that mean
we should simply wait until we have incontrovertible ‘proof’ before moving forward?
Data from the World Bank (2011) suggest that much of what is happening in many classrooms across Africa is not yielding
much impact. Business as usual, then, is not working. Might ICTs catalyse and enable ‘business unusual’, helping usher in
new approaches to meet some of the most pressing educational challenges being facing? At the same time they might
help learners achieve not just minimal thresholds for acceptable results, but also to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will help make them both globally competitive and informed, ethical citizens of their local communities. This is
the hope of many.
More often than not, and despite rhetoric to the contrary, most initial educational technology programs across the Continent
to date have focused largely on the technology itself. They have placed very little emphasis on the practical implications of the use of ICTs to meet broad educational and developmental objectives, instead engaging more narrowly and tackling issues related to basic ‘ICT literacy’. This has been an understandable and perhaps necessary first step in many circumstances, but it
is far from enough. As African communities become increasingly digitised the question should be asked: to what extent will
Africans rely on ICT tools created by others that are engines for economic growth and which assume increasingly large roles in
daily life, and to what extent will they innovate, evolve and create these technology tools themselves?
We need to ensure that African schools not only graduate future consumers of ICT-related goods and services developed
and marketed by firms from the rest of the world but, more importantly, educate future generations of innovators and
entrepreneurs who will export their products, services and ideas across the continent, and to the world.
It is often hoped that key decisions related to the use and potential of ICTs in education are based on dispassionate and
rigorous scientific analysis. However, we must concede that cold political calculus – such as politicians cutting ribbons at
school computer labs – often plays a more decisive role. Fear and faith play equally important roles. How well we harness
such fears, and tap into the aspirational components of such faith, are the challenges before us. These challenges must be
faced head on by those in the education community who believe in the promise and potentially transformative power of technologies for african learners in 2012 and beyond.

Why invest in using ICT in education in Africa?

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Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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