The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Education policy that was approved on April 27, 2016 emphasises the need to equip learners with the necessary tools to fully embrace digital learning.
Education experts say this would be achieved through the ability to use ICT effectively and efficiently to give learners a competitive edge in an increasingly globalised job market.
The policy calls for primary, secondary, TVET and higher education players to use ICT in their teaching and learning practices, promote the use of Open Distance, eLearning and Open Education Resources.
As the government moves to roll out digital education across the entire education sector, how prepared are the schools in implementation of the policy?
According to experts, successful digitalisation of education will largely depend on the successful implementation of the policy.
As the June deadline for government to fully roll out digital education approaches, the question many are asking is whether schools have the capacity and resources to embrace the policy.
Nkubito Bakuramutsa, the ICT advisor to the Minister of Education notes that the policy’s aim is to provide nationwide coverage and transform the education system, especially at the primary and secondary level.
He reveals that preparations to roll out digital education are in high gear through training of teachers and partnering with global agencies.
“By June this year, we want 50 per cent of all subjects to be taught online. It is still work in progress, but that’s the way forward. We want students to adapt to a digital system and so it needs commitment,” Bakuramutsa said.
Bakuramutsa, however, warned that teachers have to change their mindset and be more open minded to achieve the digital education goal. The goal is to shift from chalkboards, pens and paper to a computerised way of teaching and move with digital world.
He added that teachers from public institutions will each have a laptop so as to grasp hands on skills as far as digital education is concerned.
Teachers are at the centre of the shift to digital education; therefore, they need to be trained to train others. Previously, during the ‘One Laptop Per Child’ (OLPC) project, so many teachers failed to adapt and it posed a challenge in implementation of the policy. Children learned how to use the computers but unfortunately, their teachers weren’t trained to use them.
Irene Niyonambaza, Director of ICT Services at Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre (IPRC) in Kigali, says that for the programme to be effective, parents have to monitor students on their progress and performance and communicate with teachers.
“Administrators are advised to monitor and report school progress, communicate with teachers, students, parents and the community at large for the programme to succeed,” she says.
Niyonambaza says that 50,000 laptops have already been provided to public schools and 50 per cent of the teachers in primary and secondary schools have access to these computers.
Aphrodice Mutangana is the manager at KLab, a technology hub in Kigali where students, fresh graduates, entrepreneurs and innovators go to build their ideas/projects and turn them into feasible business models.
He says that they trained 1200 students in 2015 and 14,000 in 2016 on ICT-related programmes.
During a six-day workshop in April, academics gathered at Umubano Hotel, Kacyiru, to discuss ways in which digital education can be assimilated in schools.
Participants looked at how ICT can be embraced in the education sector, the specific challenges affecting this drive in various countries and possible solutions.
Speaking at the forum under the theme, International training programme on ICT and Pedagogical development, Rezaul Haque, an associate professor at the Government Teachers Training College, Pabna, Bangladesh, said that very few teachers use ICT in developing countries, though adapting to technology in schooling would improve the quality of teaching.
He said that to improve the quality of teaching, the allocation of funds for smooth Internet connectivity and the availability of electricity in schools is necessary.
Plan Boaz, a teacher at ES Kanombe, says that digital education is essential since students will be able to do research and learn the theory through practice.
“For example, some scientific studies require one to watch a video, where a student can see what happens to atoms during chemical reactions,” he says.
“We have 100 to 200 computers in our school that will be used in the ‘smart classroom’ programme,” he added.
Bonfide Mukazitoni, a teacher at APACE Secondary School in Kigali, says digital education is very important in regards to keeping academic materials safe.
Augustin Bushara, a teacher at Church of God Saint Patrick Secondary School in Kicukiro, echoed similar views noting that digital education will boost a country’s economy and sustainable development.
However, he expressed concern that in private schools the ‘smart classroom’ drive may face challenges because some parents may not afford to pay for these services.
Have your say
Anitha Muteesi, Student - FAWE Girls School
Digital education is important since students will enjoy access to the Internet. Some of our parents and teachers do not value its importance. Access to the Internet is our right. Some parents and teachers think we only want to watch the ‘inappropriate’ stuff but that is not always the case. We want to watch educational videos, which are part of our academic journey.
Sandra Mutoni, Student - GroupeScolaire Kicukiro
Students should be given full liberty to use the Internet. Of course parental guidance is advised to control what they search for on the Internet. However, for education purposes, students must have access to internet.
Richard Fotsin, Director - Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at Africa University
A big number of youth in Africa are unemployed and among the ways to address the issue is to introduce digital education where student’s skills and knowledge would be expanded into diverse skills. This would also have a lifelong effect in curbing poverty because they would be capable of investing in digital entrepreneurship. However, training teachers so that they become qualified professionals to run the drive in the long run is paramount.
Philos Mujyanama, Lecturer - University of Kigali
I think digital education will go a long way in addressing unemployment that is rampant among the youth. Equipping them with skills in software will make graduates more valuable on the job market, internationally or locally. This will open their eyes to job creation. There are many opportunities in digital investment which should be exploited by young graduates.
Edouije Isimbi, Student
At the university level,digital education is very necessary and computers should be regarded as scholastic materials which should be a requirement before a student is admitted in school. Digital illiteracy is widespread and a big number of students are not aware of basic digital skills like drawing a table using Microsoft Excel, among other programmes. This initiative should be taken on by the responsible bodies, and perhaps find ways to let students get computers on loan. It is not easy to put together one’s thesis in an internet café because they don’t have a computer of their own.