Invest in research, experts urge Mineduc

The government should conduct extensive research on the impact of various technologies before incorporating them into the education sector. The advice was given by various panelists during the just concluded three-day conference on innovation in education and ICT dubbed; "Innovation Africa 2014" that closed yesterday in Kigali.
Education minister Prof. Lwakabamba in a discussion during the  Innovation Africa meeting yesterday.(Timothy Kisambira)
Education minister Prof. Lwakabamba in a discussion during the Innovation Africa meeting yesterday.(Timothy Kisambira)

The government should conduct extensive research on the impact of various technologies before incorporating them into the education sector.

The advice was given by various panelists during the just concluded three-day conference on innovation in education and ICT dubbed; “Innovation Africa 2014” that closed yesterday in Kigali.

The conference brought together scholars, ministers for ICT and education from 26 countries as well as leading ICT corporations from across the world.

According to experts, even as the ministry seeks to utilise the benefits presented by information communication technologies, it should ensure that the technologies adopted are compatible with the challenges they seek to solve.

David Fairbairn-Day, the head of education strategy at Promethean, a global firm which develops learning solutions, said over the years he has spotted a trend in some nations where investments toward ICT for Education have ended up as a waste of resources.

“There are instances where governments have invested a lot in technologies in education that have had little or no impact toward improving the quality or access of education,” David said.

He said such instances are mostly common during times when investments in ICT are driven by politics and other factors rather than the needs of the education sector.

The advice comes at a time when the government is in the process of embarking on a new strategy to partner with the private sector to fully utilise benefits presented by ICT.

The strategy aims at increasing investments by the private sector in education to boost access and quality of education.

Amongst the areas that the private sector can intervene are infrastructure development, supply of gadgets, development of digital and training of teachers.

The Minister for Education Prof Silas Lwakabamba, said the government was investing and adopting best practices that had been tested in various countries across the world.

“This is why the government is soon moving from distribution of laptops to ‘smart classrooms’ to increase access as distributing laptops was not economically viable,” Lwakabamba said.

It is estimated that there are about three million students from primary school to university level.

The minister added that research and evidence informed the new curriculum that is to take effect in 2016 to ensure that students and graduates are equipped with relevant skills.

“We looked for the best ways to roll out the new curriculum and settled for revised text books, e-books, digitised content among others,” the minister said.

Teacher training in the new curriculum commences next year.

POSITIVO BGH, a Latin American multinational, which manufactures laptops, computers, tablets, and other electronic gadgets, recently signed a deal with the government and is set to commence production in the country early next year.

The firm will be one of the main suppliers of ICT gadgets to the Ministry of Education.

Earlier this year, Microsoft and the Ministry of Education signed an agreement to transform learning, further innovation and develop employment skills among students and educators, through Microsoft’s Partners in Learning programme.

Through the deal, they seek to jointly improve the use of ICT in teaching and learning.

This is the fifth edition of Innovation Africa Summit. Previous summits were held in Morocco, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.

The summit was conceived by AfricanBrains, a division of the international Brains Network Group dedicated to investing in education and technology through building public-private partnerships.