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Pandor: “E-learning in South Africa”(09/01/2007)

9th January 2007

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Date: 09/01/2007
Source: Department of Education
Title: Address by the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor MP, at the World Ministerial Seminar on Technology in Education


Address by the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor MP, at the World Ministerial Seminar on Technology in Education “Moving Young Minds”, Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, London

“E-learning in South Africa”

                                                               Ministers, in particular my co-panelists;
Minister of Learning from Canada Mrs. Deb Higgins,
Minister of Education and Science from Georgia, Mr. Alexander Lomaia
and the Minister for Schools in the UK, Mr. Jim Knight,
Senior Officials and Distinguished Guests.
Education Systems the world over have an obligation to deliver quality education for economic growth and social development for all.  Quality improvement and the enhancement of excellence are often perceived to be antithetical to increased access equity and redress. We have adopted a comprehensive approach of widening access and deepening the quality of our education system. In this regard two aspects of our approach are of particular importance.  Firstly our introduction of a new curriculum and secondly the implementation of our White Paper on e-Education to support the roll-out of the curriculum.

Broadly speaking, the new curriculum aims to equip learners with the knowledge, skills and values necessary for self-fulfillment and meaningful participation in society, irrespective of their socio-economic background, culture, race, gender, physical ability or intellectual ability.

The above takes place in the context of the 21st Century and a globalize world.  It is for this reason that our Government has been quick to seize the opportunity of working towards the achievement of the practical benefits of digital technology. ICT is the future and indeed the key to 21st Century teaching and learning.

In our country, we have a strong commitment to ICT in education.  Bringing ICT connectivity to our schools and education institutions will and must happen.  We are already piloting a dedicated education network called the EduNet that will connect all schools and make connectivity affordable to teachers and learners.  It is a task that will occur alongside the provision of basic educational infrastructure.

It is our belief that ICTs in Education should integrate teaching and learning with access to infrastructure. Key to reaching this objective is the successful integration of teachers into this process. So although we are here to ‘move YOUNG minds, we have to move OLD minds’ too.  We are strengthening our efforts at effective and ongoing professional support for teachers in order to ensure sustained use of ICT.

Furthermore, emphasis is placed on increasing access to relevant, high quality and diverse content resources and the provision of opportunities for teachers and learners to communicate, collaborate and collectively develop and share learning experiences.

We have had some successes but continue to face many challenges.

Teacher Development

We are finalising an implementation plan for the National Teacher Development Framework where all teacher development is addressed, from initial training to continuing professional teacher development.  Within this, we are developing guidelines for teacher development in ICT.  So teachers who wish to excel in the use of ICT for teaching and learning will be able to do so.

To date we have trained more than 22 000 teachers to use ICT in education. This was done through partnership agreements with Intel, CompTia and Microsoft. A principal’s guide to implement and use ICT in schools has also been developed and distributed.

Educational content

We have also successfully established an education portal, known as Thutong, which has over 21 000 learning objects for use by both teachers and learners.

The Thutong portal is the first sustained opportunity to pull together the online educational experience for South African educational communities. The portal provides access to a range of quality curriculum and learner support materials, as well as to professional development programmes for educators, administration and management resources and tools for schools, education policy documents, and general news and information related to the latest developments in South African education. Resources on the portal are made available free to users, with particular priority given to the needs of those from disadvantaged schools and rural areas.

A key partner to our portal is the Mindset Network.  Mindset Network provides assistance through a satellite-based technology platform that distributes high-quality multimedia educational content. Mindset provides educational materials as well as training in the use of the associated technology. The organisation has installed receiving equipment in more than 1,500 schools and 250 hospitals and clinics. Content is also available in over 1.5 million homes via satellite broadcast.

Last month, Mindset Network was chosen from a group of over 160 nominees as the winner of the 2006 Development Gateway Award.

The 2006 Development Gateway Award was on the theme of youth and was presented at the International Telecommunications Union Telecom World 2006 in Hong Kong.

Infrastructure

Despite these positive developments, in South Africa today the majority of learners and schools do not have access to ICT infrastructure.  The use of ICT in Education is a recent phenomenon in South Africa.  All of you would be aware of our history of education under development for the majority population.  It is this history that gives rise to the following challenging statistics. Only 3 in 10 schools (we have 26 000 schools for 12 million learners) have access to ICT.  Only 1 in 10 schools have access to the Internet, and this is mainly through dial-up connections. We are also working closely with our provincial colleagues to place ICT infrastructure in all schools. Some provinces are making good progress in this regard and are achieving high levels of ICT integration into their curriculum delivery.

Conclusion

As you can see, the Department is committed to not only bridging the digital divide, but to adequately prepare learners to lead productive lives in the global society.  Some critical observations can be made from this situation:

1. There is strong political will to drive the initiative, but resources and infrastructure are key.

2. The pace of delivery has to be accelerated, if the current pace is maintained we will lose the gains made thus far.

3. Government alone cannot cope with the demand and PPPs maybe the useful route for countries in our situation to explore.

4. Initiatives should take cognisance of the levels of development across provinces and individual schools.  Our effort should be deliberately skewed towards those provinces and schools that continue to suffer the most marginalization and neglect.

I believe, however, with further support in which we jointly address the challenges that face us, great progress can be made.

I thank you.

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