Digital education: Why is it important?

Despite the several incentives that have been introduced to facilitate Rwandan students, the policymakers in the sector have vowed to continue striving to ensure Rwandan students get world class education.

This was witnessed back in 2016, when the Ministry of Education challenged stakeholders in the education sector to fast-track a new model that would revolutionise education into an ICT-based sector.

In the same year, an ‘ICT-in-Education’ policy was adopted. Dubbed “Smart Classroom”, the initiative aimed at digitising education from a paper-based system to a digital-driven sector.

It also sought to equip schools with computers and access to the internet, based on the belief that ICT is a tool which will transform the country’s education system through the digitalisation of academic material.

ICT is a tool which will transform the country’s education system through the digitalisation of academic material. Net photo.

Bright Karenzi, was a senior six student offering mathematics, physics and computer science last year at College Saint Andre in Nyamirambo when smart classrooms were initiated at his school; this was in September.

He points out that since ICT was embraced as important in almost all fields, there is no reason it wouldn’t be introduced in education.

He emphasises that smart classrooms came just in time when he needed them most.

“As a candidate who had a short time to prepare for exams, I wanted personal time to do research, I also compared my notes with different online sources, if anything seemed hard for me to understand I would consult the internet, to mention a few,” he says.

Just like Karenzi, a number of students have optimised the smart room initiative, they acknowledge that digitisation of education prepares them to have a world-class education.

Kelvin Juan Rwema Ndizihiwe, a student, says that technology is essential in improving the quality of education.

“These facilities will help us (students) increase access and exposure to the digital world and internet-based learning, something that will not only boost our performance but also prepare us for the digital labour market,” he says.

Edna Asiimwe Mugunga, a senior five student offering mathematics, physics and geography at Lycée de Kigali, says, “I am proud of these developments. We have been learning ICT-related courses but since the smart classrooms are in place now, the learning process will be easier. The system is also friendlier compared to the previous one as we will no longer be asked to do too much paper work but instead, everything will be digital-based.”

In the first quarter of this year, it was announced that over 711 schools have implemented the “Smart Classroom” policy.

And with this, Riviera High School deputy principal in charge of boarding and student welfare, Vincent Magambo, believes that the initiative will not only enhance the students’ performance, but also make it easy for the teaching staff.

He remarks that students’ observation is much stronger in a digital classroom, explaining that content can easily be understood when it is taught and observed physically. Learning becomes very interactive.

And, Magambo adds that the level of students’ participation increases since smart classrooms create interest among learners.

Live illustrations via photos, maps, graphs and others are available in a smart classroom. This enhances retention of learnt content in the long term, thus students’ test scores improving, plus availability of better methods of delivery and comprehension of the learnt content.

As for teachers, Magambo says it saves time for the syllabi can be covered within the shortest possible time. No pens, no note books and no writing notes is needed.

The digital vs classic classroom 

Chalk is replaced with a smart pen and a black board is replaced with a smart board. These two improve hygiene of the teacher and the entire classroom.

The smart classroom initiative comprises three components; use of white boards, electronic devices such as computers and projectors, and digital content.

Teachers claim that classroom control becomes so easy since all students are engaged and do work hands-on with smart classrooms.

According to Irenee Ndayambaje, the director general of the Rwanda Education Board, students access a computer lab as a facility in which they go for computer literacy.

Jean Nepo Nizeyimana, a teacher at Excella School, believes that smart classrooms will incorporate ICT into different fields in the country’s education system, and bring a fundamental impact in teaching and learning systems.

“The initiative brings about positive change for teachers and learners as the latter get a wide range of resources, rather than using a single book.”

For Francoise Uwimbabazi, the head teacher at Groupe Scolaire APACE at Mont Kigali, the initiative will simplify work for both students and teachers, hence, easy management of the classroom.

“As opposed to the former system, in a smart classroom, a teacher will need to project work on a whiteboard and then students can easily follow up from either their laptops or even the projection, thus not needing to go from one student to another explaining to them, and this in the long run will make it easier for both students and teachers,” she says.

However, Uwimbabazi adds that students will find it easier to keep their content safe, especially because many students would not keep their books and use it as an excuse for poor performance. 

She also says that they will now need to cater for their desktops in schools and all content will be kept, thus enhancing their performance.

How can students make the most out of digital classrooms?

Maurice Twahirwa, another teacher, echoes that developing a knowledge-based society, trainees (students) should be equipped with knowledge in ICT, as the teaching and learning system has been revolutionised to be led by ICT.

“This is such a huge investment provided that these Positivo laptops provided are in the range of USD 240 to 270. Given that the content being uploaded in these computers is aligned with Competence Based Curriculum (CBC), students need to work very hard and show an improvement now that they have even better and more facilities.”

This should motivate students and schools so that more emphasis in as far as implementation of the project is concerned, he adds.

“But this should also encourage them to practise and exercise their research skills, making it easier for teachers to prepare content. Besides, students should feel that digitising the education system will boost innovation, job creation and education quality,” Twahirwa says. 

It is planned that by the year 2020, all public schools in the country will have two smart classrooms and all subjects will have been digitised, Ndayambaje highlights.