Technology presents answer to school closures

Technology presents answer to school closures

ICTs can bridge the gap in learning and pave the way to new models for education

School closures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic are putting children at risk on a number of fronts. However, technology presents solutions to these challenges. This is according to Admire Gwanzura, Vice President of the IITPSA and an  IITPSA Western Cape chapter committee member, who said during a webinar last week that IT professionals had to help enable infrastructure and systems to support education.

“SDG goal number 4 aims to have children complete free primary and secondary education by 2030, with universal access to higher education. However, the global pandemic we are facing now is challenging these goals, with schools around the world having to shut,” he said.

Gwanzura noted that, according to UNESCO, over 67% of students were out of schools because of Covid-19 closures. “Nearly  1.2 billion learners have been affected in 153 countries.

This impacts on their socio-economic status, results in poor nutrition for students who depend on free school meals, and could cause an increased exposure to violence, the risk of teenage pregnancies and a rise in school dropouts.”

He said: “This fast-changing situation requires education institutions to meet the needs of over 1.5 billion students for remote learning. Technology and service providers can add value through digital solutions that address the immediate and long-term needs of students, teachers and researchers.”

The presentation highlighted that technology was making remote learning the new normal, but that remote learning was unevenly distributed; and that physical infrastructure had to be in place to enable remote learning for all students to avoid worsening the digital divide.

With a participant poll finding that 47% of parents now prefer home schooling, Gwanzura said: “The proliferation of technologies challenges education institutions to adapt their teaching and learning models to a changing world. There is an urgent need for new sustainable models for education. Education needs to move from a knowledge transfer model to a more collaborative model, and we need to develop the skills needed to succeed in the learning society.”

“There is no one size fits all approach,” he noted. “It will be up to the schools and colleges to find a balance between remote and physical to help them deliver the curriculum, whether they opt for completely remote learning or a blended learning model.”

To optimise remote learning, certain challenges had to be addressed, he said. These included access to the internet, the cost of broadband, and the lack of security in home systems.  “As technology practitioners, we have a huge task of making technology work. We need to use the knowledge and skills we have to provide solutions,” he said.

The IITPSA Western Cape chapter webinar was one of a series of webinars IITPSA is rolling out to enhance communication and knowledge sharing among members.

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