DBE's ICT plans revealed

The Department of Basic Education is aiming to utilise technology as a developmental tool for teacher education as well as integrating it into the school curriculum.

This was said by Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Enver Surty on Friday at a gala dinner in Cape Town, at the Microsoft Partners in Learning Worldwide Innovative Education Forum Awards.

These awards are the global culmination of local and regional events held around the world throughout the year, where teachers present ideas on how technology can further educational transformation to help improve the way children learn. The event drew more than 600 educationists and technology experts from around the world and during last week, 125 teacher finalists showcased their projects based on innovative teaching practices. South Africa’s Peter de Lisle of Hilton College, outside Pietermaritzburg, was the second runner-up in the Innovation in Content category.
His “Biodiversity” project involved using thinking and research tools to find out about biomes and entailed the creation of a collaborative spreadsheet tool to evaluate the best biome to live in.

Addressing guests at Friday nights’s event, Surty said that an inter-ministerial committee had met last week to sign an agreement that “binds the (education) minister, deputy minister, (education) MECs” and the ministers of other departments in the achievement of certain goals. While there was a commitment to the provision of quality basic education, Surty said Information Communication Technology (ICT) came under the spotlight.

He said that there is commitment that by 2015 every learner who has passed grade 3 will have exposure to ICT.

Stressing the importance of ICT, he said that due to undersea cables linking Africa to the world, and vice versa, “technology has been taken to the heart of Africa…” Africans can communicate with the Middle East, Asia and Europe. 

Referring to Microsoft’s Partners in Learning programme which provides teachers with access to free online teaching tools and encourages them to share their ICT projects with others within an online community, Surty said “it does not matter where you are—there is no reason why we can’t converse, share best practice and produce technology in a way that all children can benefit from.” 

While South Africa has about 26 000 schools, only three in 10 have access to technology and only one in 10 schools has access to the internet, mainly through dial up connections. While the government is trying to roll out the Teacher Laptop Initiative which provides teachers with a R130 subsidy per month towards the purchase of a laptop, the use of technology in teaching methodology is yet to be formally incorporated into the teacher training curriculum.

However, through the Microsoft Partners in Learning Programme, the Department of Basic Education has received R93 million in free software through a national schools’ agreement. More than 25 000 teachers have been trained using the programme’s Teacher Training curriculum and the aim is to foster the development of 21st century skills among learners.

Meanwhile, the Best Practice winners in the four main evaluation categories of this year’s Worldwide Innovative Education Forum Awards are: Samuel Avornyo of Ghana, Innovation in Community; Martin Ryum and Mette Hauch of Denmark, Innovation in Collaboration; Pat Yongpradit of the United States, Innovation in Content; and Tareq Mahjoub, Tareq Mahmoud, Shahzlan Al Saffar, Omar Ashour, Futooh Khareetah and Majdi Daoud of the Arabic region, Educators’ Choice.

Next year’s Innovative Teacher Awards results will be announced in Washington, D.C. Country and regional competitions will take place in November 2010. For more information go to the website.

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