In February 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa informed the nation that during the course of 2021, 200 schools would pilot the new Coding and Robotics curriculum for grades R to three, and 1 000 schools would pilot the grade seven curriculum. For many, the new curriculum may seem daunting, but it reflects the changes in learning that we’ve witnessed over the past year, and is an attempt to ready our youth for the technological demands of the fourth industrial revolution.
Educators, parents, learners and students worldwide have faced a major shift in learning over the past year. The rapid move to online, and then hybrid learning, has reinforced how important access to technology, and an understanding of how to use it, is for a child’s successful ongoing educational development and to their future.
The changing face of education in South Africa
Covid-19 has had a huge socioeconomic impact across the country, and many parents have had to move their children from private to government schools as they deal with reduced household income. This shift has had an impact on the sizes of classes in government schools, increasing not only the challenges faced by educators who are trying to do their best in overcrowded classrooms, but potentially compromising the learning experience for the children themselves.
Classrooms in South Africa are already reaching capacity, with the learner educator ratio sitting at an average of 33.5 students to one teacher in primary schools, and 32.2 students to one teacher in secondary schools. That means class sizes of 39 and 36 respectively. It’s not the ideal learning environment, and it often results in the need for extra lessons as learners are not able to ask as many questions or get one-on-one input from teachers if they don’t understand concepts in class.
A number of parents have also opted to continue home-schooling their children for a variety of reasons. Some stated they had seen an improvement in results from increased focus on online schooling; while others have benefitted from reduced school fees, whether through online offerings from private schools, or because they are following online home-schooling curriculums. Some parents, particularly those living in multi-generational homes, were concerned about the potential risk Covid-19 poses to family members with comorbidities. This has meant finding working solutions to online learning so that their children stay up to date and in line with the South African curriculum. Universities also shifted to online learning, and many have said they will continue a blended learning approach going forward as it has shown merit.
As primary and secondary schools are now back full time, government, organisations and the private sector need to come together to set up virtual classrooms to continue blended learning. Mobile network operators MTN, Cell C, Telkom and Vodacom have also come on board and contributed to continued education by opening their online platforms for learners to access relevant education content. Many educational sites have been zero-rated to reduce data costs for families whose children needed to access online learning.
Setting your child up for success
The pandemic has put paid to any doubts that we need a better understanding of technology, and the time is right to embrace it, particularly in a learning environment. We have experienced first-hand how it has enabled many individuals and businesses to continue to work despite multiple lockdowns, and many have benefitted from the myriad of technology-based solutions that have sprung up quickly to assist us in this new way of being.
Parents can help their children to succeed by bridging the learning divide. By providing access to technology — such as laptops and other devices at home — parents can enable blended learning approaches; increase exposure to resources focused on science, technology, and maths; and strengthen their children’s foundational skills. These tools can help to develop problem-solving skills, and to encourage an interest in, and pursuit of Stem-related careers.
While mobile learning has enabled many learners to continue their studies, mobile devices aren’t the ideal tools for learning, as the screens are small, the temptation to access social media is higher, and the battery life isn’t always as long as you need it to be. Laptops offer a better solution for online learning. Concentration is easier due to screen size, and learners and students can work better with programmes such as MS Word or MS Excel. Online platforms — while set up for access by all devices — also often work better when accessed via the web on a laptop.
What to look for in an education-enabling laptop
A laptop is an investment in your child’s future, and it can be overwhelming choosing the right one to enable a positive learning environment. A laptop offers many benefits in a learning environment, as it can help you to:
- Shape-up ideas faster – fast processing speeds powered by a 10th or 11th Generation Intel Core™ i3 processor will enable your child to bring their ideas to life through quick research, collaboration and execution. They can multitask, toggle between multiple windows and handle demanding applications with utmost ease.
- Experience lifelike remote learning – Remote learning is the new normal. It provides learning continuity and expands learning opportunities. Your child can experience lifelike remote learning with a TrueVision HD Camera. It’s improved low-light video performance captures high-quality footage even in dim light that makes remote interactions more engaging. By integrating a digital microphone into the camera, they will be able to get their point across clearly.
- Study without interruption – A long battery life is critical so your child can keep working, even during power cuts. It also helps them to move freely and study from wherever they want to, reducing the need to carry the charger, or always have a charging point nearby. Fast charge technology is a must these days, so look for a battery that can recharge 50% of its battery in just 45 minutes, allowing your child to study and create all day.
- Learn from anywhere – On or off campus, a thin, light notebook makes for easier studying on the go. The right laptop should enable seamless viewing on a micro-edge display with an ultra-narrow bezel, giving your child enough screen on a portable 14″ notebook to see clearly and complete tasks easily.
Buying a laptop for your children will not only help them succeed at school, it will also empower them by preparing them for future challenges, and helping them to acquire critical skills necessary to thrive in the digital era.
Bradley Pulford is Managing Director & VP of HP inc. in Africa