State teachers go digital

The government plans to provide laptop computers to permanently employed state teachers as a teaching aid at cost of almost R3-billion in the next five years.

Teacher unions warned last week that the roll-out would have to be coupled to training and analysts emphasised that the Education Department must monitor the benefits.

Deputy director general Firoz Patel said national government would hand the provinces R550-million a year over five years to provide computers.

“The minister realises that quality education is often elusive and that the computer can catapult one over the tedious development route,” Patel said.

The department wants to give teachers the tools to make the revised outcomes-based education (OBE) system work, he said.

Many teachers have been inadequately trained for OBE and some do not understand the content they are expected to teach.

Patel said it could take 10 years to retrain teachers, at great cost, but through the use of computers training could be accelerated and materials made available. “They could have access to lesson plans, for example.”

Every qualifying teacher will be entitled to a computer on application. “Investigations are under way about whether the computers will be purchased outright, through a monthly subsidy for five years, or through an allowance.”

Implementation is expected to occur in the 2009-10 financial year. Formal consultations with trade unions would take place only once the investigation is completed, Patel said.

One model could entail teachers receiving R1 500 annually and choosing their laptops according to their needs, but there would be norms and standards. Depending on their chosen package, they would have to top up from their own funds.

Patel said computers could be replaced after five years. The subsidy or allowance would be a benefit for the duration of the teacher’s career.

The allowance or subsidy will cover internet usage through a data card or fixed line and wind-up generators or solar-powered batteries would accommodate rural teachers.

No face-to-face training is envisaged, but the use of software to assist with training is being investigated.

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