Welcome back to Part II of our look at how in terms of development, ICTs have been transforming the African continent. Last week we looked at the medical industry and saw how via the use of Telemedicines, medical staff from across the globe were able to give support in rural areas.
So next, let’s look at how ICTs have been helping to transform Africa in terms of education.
The Global Knowledge Economy
Now there’s a title that we don’t hear every day. But in times were education is held at an all-time high and robotics has resulted in entire work forces being wiped out. It is how a society delivers quality education to its citizens that will be a precursor to how they will be able to participate in the knowledge society.
According to the Council for Higher Education, South Africa “The process of the reconstruction and development of higher education in South Africa is part of the wider process of political democratization, economic reconstruction and development, and social redistribution.”
So, to break that down the council is meaning that if we are able to deliver education, to a wider audience. Then various parts of society including the political and finance systems will all be affected.
But the billion dollar question is how?
The three effects
A prime example of this that I came across whilst researching the subject, was the increased use of Web-based or E-learning systems. This style of learning came about and has spread like wildfire across the continent for three different reasons. The first being an increased demand for new skills. As noted by RUFORUM Communication the skills set of an average worker now needs to be updated every 3 to 5 years.
This fast pace of change combined with the demand for new skills bring us to the second reason. That being of accessibility. No longer are the constraints of where you live or work used in determining what kind of education you receive. And the impact on industries like IT and Agriculture have been nothing less than phenomenal. This of course is nothing unique to Africa, but given the sheer size of the continent and the incredible distance between many of the communities. This form of further education has had an incredible impact on both the public and private sector.
The third and most if not, equally important effect ICTs are having on education in Africa is the concept of collaboration and networking. The use of ICTs is now not only spreading information at record pace but also ideas as well as history.
Never before has such collaboration been seen and as RUFORUM Communication noted, this brings forth a new phase of empowerment to the people. Now with easier access than ever before, combined with free governmental and non-governmental providers. E-learning is allowing ideas to flow back and forth in real time across the continent. And the traditional classroom format of one teacher and it pupils has been exploded and expanded.
However, despite this incredible opportunity and revolution in delivery of educational services one major drawback has been seen so far – and that is consistency. As the industry becomes more lucrative and the use of ICTs spreads. So, does the explosion of private online education providers. With no ‘benchmark’ to use when it comes to curriculum and quality the discrepancies between educational providers can be vast.
One way the Council for Higher Education, South Africa is tackling this issue is through accreditation. By this it is meant that all educational providers are able to under a formal accreditation processes in which they are tested and scrutinised. Therefore, when advertising their product, they will also be stating their accreditation too.
But.. and this is the Catch-22 of the ICT revolution. If you are educated and understand processes, know what expected quality of the product should be etc. Then of course these safeguards such as accreditation work. But on a continent where the levels of education between various urban and rural groups may differ severely. How does the governments then safeguard those most in need from fraudulent and sometimes expensive educational programs?
The answer to that question we will look at next week!