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Enter the classroom of the future

Despite the almost universal recognition of education as a key pillar which will support the prosperity of the South African nation, the pass rates of Matric students hit an all-time low last year with just 60.6% of candidates succeeding. PARTHY CHETTY, Intel Education Manager gives his view on the classroom of the future.

This underscores the presence of a deep crisis in South African education ‚ but government is sitting up and taking notice, amending policies and also seeking to introduce more support for teachers. It is arguably through the introduction of technology-driven and supported approaches in the classroom of the future that learners will be equipped with the skills they need to perform in the modern world.

The question which is being begged in the media, by government and by the private sector is whether or not Outcomes Based Education (OBE) is to blame for the decline in the Matric pass rate, from 73.3% in 2003, to its current low level and is the lack of locally relevant content part of the issue.

A direction taken by the Department of Education in the 1990s, OBE is not a new concept: it has been applied in countries including the United States of America and Australia. OBE differs from ‚traditional’ education in that it is focused on measuring student performance, which are called outcomes, whereas traditional approaches focus on the resources that are available to the student, which are called inputs.

Perhaps ironically, however, among the key reasons cited for the failure of OBE is that there was a lack of the necessary inputs and support structures. In a recent article on news website, education specialist Graeme Bloch described the approach as optimistic and overly complex. Notably, he pointed to the fact that only 8% of the 27000 government schools have libraries and 10% have Internet connections. ‚Despite that, the OBE syllabus required pupils to research a crippling number of assignments,’ notes the article.

While OBE is being shown the door, important lessons remain. Studies have found that education and GDP are directly proportional. To be competitive in the global economy, nations must prepare today’s students to thrive in tomorrow’s workforce. Education experts have identified the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly knowledge-based society. Skills like technology literacy, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration ‚ commonly referred to as 21st century skills ‚ are the foundation for knowledge creation and the springboard for future innovators.

Technology in the classroom is key to imparting these skills and 1:1 e-learning where every student is equipped with a computer is the ideal environment. But using technology to improve education requires more than just putting PCs in the classroom. Students need to be engaged. Teachers need technology that easily integrates into their existing curriculum, and training on how to use it. Schools need products and content that is locally appropriate, easily deployed, and simple to maintain. As well as this, governments need cost-effective, comprehensive solutions that help them effectively manage a transition to 1:1 education.

The classroom of the future is one in which teachers must know how to use technology as an instructional tool. Teachers must wield the skills and enjoy access to the resources to integrate computer technology effectively into existing curriculum: technology tools and strategies are necessary to enhance learning through research, communication, productivity and assessment.

To this end, government’s Teacher Laptop Initiative is arguably a strong step in the right direction. By putting a computer and connectivity in the hands of every teacher, the first steps towards addressing that stunning statistic are taken.

At Intel we believe that access to 21st century education is a right of every child. This is the only way that our children will be able to compete on equal terms with their global counterparts and it will also open up a world of opportunities for the learners that would not otherwise be available to them under current conditions.

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