|Sept - Dec 2016|
|Global Digital Innovation|
The ability of broadband to connect the unconnected and improve education and students’ learning experiences is undisputed, says the Broadband Commission in its report released in September 2014.
“Digital inclusion still remains a big challenge, and countries are continuously looking for the best ways in which technology and ICTs can provide solutions to reach the unreached and enhance traditional delivery modes and pedagogies. Some examples can demonstrate how governments are striving to empower learners with technology, often with the contribution of the private sector.
“The Broadband for All Initiative in South Africa is one example of a PPP between government, non- governmental organizations and industry, designed to address digital inclusion by narrowing the divide between the connected and unconnected. The project aims to build a novel ecosystem using wireless mesh networks for delivering broadband infrastructure in underserved areas."
“South Africa has around 26,500 primary and secondary schools, of which at least 17,000 are in remote rural villages without Internet connectivity. Providing broadband access to these schools could enhance education quality and reduce inequalities."
The commission says that today’s learners live in a knowledge-based and globally interconnected society, largely driven by digital technologies. “To acquire 21st century skills, students should be empowered as self- directed learners, critical thinkers, problem-solvers and independent lifelong learners. To achieve this vision, many countries, including developing countries, have initiated learner-centred programmes to motivate youth to learn and perform at school, and are introducing new literacy concepts such as media and information literacy.”
To reap the benefits of broadband in education, it is important that governments put in place consistent policies for education and technology, as well as sustained financial investments. For example, says the commission, Rwanda’s government has begun efforts to reform its education system to develop 21st century learning skills and to provide each of its 2.5 million children in primary schools with his or her own laptop.
“In the framework of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project, by the end of 2012, 210,000 laptops were deployed to 217 schools across the country. Capacity-building for heads of schools, teachers and local technicians has been the crucial priority for the OLPC Rwanda. Training of 981 teachers from 150 schools has been conducted in the initial phase.
“Another example is Zambia, which, like other developing countries, faces significant challenges with delivering education. These include shortages of teachers, books and learning material, large class sizes and a continuing dependence on rote learning. The iSchool Zambia project , a multi-stakeholder initiative between the Ministry of Education, Intel, Cambridge University and the University of Zambia, takes advantage of the rapid spread and growing use of Internet technologies to deliver education services.”