Department Of Basic Education E Learning
Department Of Basic Education E Learning, E-learning is a learning environment which uses information and communication technologies (ICT’s) as a platform for teaching and learning activities. It has been defined as “pedagogy empowered by technology”, though ‘digital technology’ is more accurate. Note that, due to the difference in terms of institutional goals, higher education and the industry have very different ideas about what e-learning is and how e-learning can be/should be used.
Library services access, e-Education: Departments of Basic Education & Communications briefings
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) firstly briefed the Committee on the Library and Information Services (LIS), which were extremely important in supporting and ensuring that learners succeeded and that the education sector outcomes improved. It was mentioned that e-Education would complement LIS by multi-media and enabling text to be made available to learners. The DBE conceded that it had not done as well as it should have in the LIS area. The numbers of schools in the lowest-achieving provinces, Eastern Cape and Limpopo, with functional central libraries, classroom libraries or mobile libraries were set out. 47% of schools did not fulfil minimum standards for LIS and 51% did. In order to respond to this, the DBE planned to roll out phased access to library services over the next three years. The estimated budget was R16.5 billion, which was why it had to be done incrementally. The plan was to provide centralised school or classroom libraries in the seven provinces with the lowest access. Over the three years, 1 006 centralised libraries and 3 000 classroom libraries would be set up. Whilst DBE awaited approval from National Treasury, it had asked the provinces to identify the schools with the most need.
The DBE then reported on the state of e-Education, which was first mentioned in the White Paper of 2004, which announced a goal of every basic and higher education learner being ICT-capable by 2013. that had not been achieved. Provinces gave unequal funding to support e-learning, very few schools made computers available for teaching and learning, although they may have some for administration. The private sector had partnered with government in rolling out some initiatives, particularly in 16 inclusive education schools, and there were now ICT Resources Centres, which also catered for the disabled, with a library of resources to assist learning. Another initiative supported by the Telkom Foundation was geared to helping teachers in multi-grade classrooms, and this would be extended. Although teacher development rested with the provinces, DBE had recognised the need to take this up, and was focusing on training teachers to integrate ICT into their lessons. 77 of the 86 districts had connectivity for schools, but Northern Cape did not. Although 14 260 schools were connected, 223 Dinaledi schools were still without connectivity. Private sponsorship was usually provided for a period, but when this was withdrawn the school failed to maintain the connection. DBE was urging that the 223 Dinaledi schools would be included in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Legacy project. DBE was developing a dedicated centralised content-hosting platform and open resources. A draft new e-Education implementation plan was mentioned, but it was also noted that this had not been approved (and the Chairperson criticised the Department for having raised this at all). Challenges included lack of dedicated budget, lack of provincial plans, lack of competent personnel, limited coverage, high cost of connectivity and reluctance of network operators to offer e-rates.
The Department of Communications (DOC) then outlined the e-Skilling strategy for South Africa. The E-Skills Institute was driving this, with an emphasis on connectivity, use of hardware and capacity building across the e-skills fields. There was emphasis on how ICT skills and capabilities could be promoted and used to access opportunities, including those in the creative space. Whilst it was important to have e-literacy in all schools, other e-initiatives should also be pursued, and the National Development Plan’s aims to have all South Africans e-literate by 2030 would be pursued. This would involve making over 10 million people e-literate in the next five years, which must involve cross-departmental and partnership initiatives, and encouragement for parents and children to educate each other in this field. Six provincial CoLabs had been established, to build (capacity and delivery capability, and to grow research capabilities. There was investigation into how to build on the existing capital asset base. It was emphasised that coordination was needed in both investment and operations. The points highlighted at the first National e-Skills Summit were summarised, and the provinces had been asked to identify needs. Demand and supply must be built at the same time, and skills retained in every province. New courses being created all the time were directed to filling gaps. The increased opportunities on the mobile platform were to be seized. A National e-Skills Curriculum and Competency Framework was drawn up in collaboration with other business and industry stakeholders, and people would be constantly encouraged to change mindsets and move to online environments. Collaborative efforts were needed to address affordability questions. DOC was putting high priority on rolling out the broadband policy.
Members asked a number of questions but it was apparent that most felt that not enough had been done to develop e-learning since 2004. The Chairperson emphasised that ten years was substantial, given the strides in ICT development, and that there simply was not enough delivery. Members were concerned that some of the matters reported on by the DBE were not contained in the Annual Performance Plan, questioned how its information had been obtained, feeling that it relied too much on reporting and too little on actual investigations, and that too little was being done for the disabled. They felt that computers for administration should have been left out of the report, and wondered how the DBE hoped to achieve its plans, given that the laptop initiative had failed. They did not think that there was enough sense of urgency, either for the libraries or the e-learning, questioned the costs, and asked if the proposed Ministerial Advisory councils and task teams had eve been formed. They asked why more consideration was not given to mobile libraries, and, where these were being used, what plans had been made to ensure that they were secure, and maintained. Members questioned the DBE’s intention to train teachers on incorporating ICT, when many of them were unaware even of how to use a computer or software properly, and had no opportunities at their schools to implement what they had learned in training sessions. The Chairperson felt that the DBE report was inadequate in many respects. Not enough numerical, as opposed to percentage, information was provided, the location of ICT Resource Centres was not specified, training plans were still in drat, and the advancement of technology meant that the DBE had to look very carefully at what children would need in the future, for their employment and future lives. It had to be more creative about what content it provided, which could be downloaded even on to old cellphones, and how to capitalise on mobile technology, as “traditional” reading, writing and arithmetic skills, while necessary, were not enough. She commented that there was no point in providing centres if the general communities were not trained and there was a need for full collaboration and engagement between departments. Specific tasks were given to the DBE by the Committee, that it should report on at future meetings. She also tasked the DOC with ensuring that the Independent Communications Authority would deal with licensing issues, and putting project and communication teams in place.