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Leveraging ICTs to optimise scarce competences in learner attainment

By Ernest Watkins,2014-04-10 18:25
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Leveraging ICTs to optimise scarce competences in learner attainment

LEVERAGING ICTS TO OPTIMISE SCARCE COMPETENCES IN LEARNER ATTAINMENT

    Tom Waspe

    "The development of the rationale for ICT in education in Gauteng done by the GDE in partnership with Ernst & Young."

Overview

South Africa‟s first government of national unity was inaugurated on 10 May 1994, after almost three centuries of the

    systemic oppression of the majority of it‟s people. The journey toward a better life for all South Africans had begun.

    The historical imbalances arising of an apartheid regime have made this journey difficult and challenging. Not least is the challenge to ensure an education system that delivers quality and equitable education to all its learners, to enable social development and economic growth.

    The use of ICT in education offers a realistic opportunity to meet and address the challenge of providing relevant and equitable education for all of Gauteng‟s learners. This paper develops this rationale by positioning the use of ICT in education in Gauteng within the following three interwoven issues:

    strd; There are huge disparities between the 1 and the 3 world and this is set in the context of an increasingly

    rdknowledge driven and globalising society. Through the innovative and entrepreneurial use of ICT, the 3

    world may close and even leap frog this divide. Unfortunately, if the digital divide persists, ICT is likely to

    instead, worsen these socio-economic disparities.

    ; Investment in ICT to enable a society to better manage the challenges of the new millennium is consistent with

    a number of strategies adopted by government, (both nationally and provincially), to provide for a „better life

    for all‟. These include, but are not limited to NEPAD‟s strategic framework document, Gauteng‟s Smart

    Province strategy, the National Department of Education‟s e-Education strategy and the National Skills

    Development strategy.

    ; In our society that is increasingly being challenged by the rapid pace of technological innovations and related

    complexities, there is a critical need to raise the level of education to deliver the foundation for a globally

    competitive workforce. The use of ICT to substantially rejuvenate and improve the quality of education is

    compelling, especially in view of the critical social and economic problems still confronting our nation, 10

    years into its democracy.

    The culmination of this rationale has been the launch of GautengOnLine aimed at unlocking the potential value of ICT in education in Gauteng.

Globalisation and the Knowledge Society

    The 21st century marks the dawning of the information age when a transistor already costs less than a staple. ICT is changing the world and in particular, its economic climate, due to a dramatic decline in the cost, scope and ease with which information is exchanged and processed. (See nearby box titled „a new world‟ for more on the information

    revolution.) The collapse in the cost of conducting commerce over large distances has led to the blurring of geographic

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boundaries and the emergence of the „Global Economy‟. This new environment favours innovation, flexibility and an

    ability to quickly and accurately respond to rapidly changing circumstances that are being driven principally by the ICT revolution.

    A key aspect of the global economy is the trend away from the old paradigms of associating wealth generation with natural resources - towards services and the emerging knowledge societies. In the United States, over 75% of its workforce is employed in the service sector and this excludes the white-collar workers in other sectors. It is also estimated that the use of ICT contributed close to 50% of the total acceleration in U.S. productivity in the second half of

    1the 1990‟s.

    In order to share equally in the fruits of the Global Economy - South Africa, Africa and the rest of the developing world

    2must produce higher valued goods and services. Global inequalities emphasise this need:

    ; The richest 10% of the U.S. population have an income equal to that of the poorest 43% of the world. In other

    words, the income of the richest 25 million Americans is equal to that of almost 2 billion people;

    ; The income of the world‟s richest 5% is 114 times that of the poorest 5%;

    ; The world‟s richest 1% of people receive as much income as the poorest 57%.

    strdrdThe divide between the 1 and the 3 world will grow wider if 3 world countries continue to produce low value items

    strdthat are converted to higher value items in the 1 world and subsequently sold back to the 3 world. Bridging this gap

    necessitates that developing countries must become active members of the new knowledge society, a society characterised by:

    ; An emphasis on the value of each human mind rather than simply „automating their muscle‟,

    ; Information intensity versus energy intensity,

    ; Networks and distributed intelligence versus single organisation and centralised intelligence,

    ; ICT enablement and recognition of its cross cutting nature and growing impact on all other sectors; and

    ; Multiple skills and continuous learning especially due to the demise of the life-time employment paradigm,

    3which is being replaced by labour market flexibility.

    ICT is an integral component of this new knowledge society and is having a profound impact on the way humans work, play and learn. Consider the following example from a modern IBM chip factory:

    The production of a chip lasts 20 days consisting of approximately 500 processing steps. Throughout the process, human hands do not touch the wafers. The circuits etched into the chips are less than one-thousandth the width of a human hair. Human operators are only there to monitor the systems, catch errors and fine-tune production processes for

    4optimum efficiency.

1 Annual Report of the Global Digital Divide Initiative, 2001/2

    2 These statistics extracted from a paper entitled, Africa‟s digital rights by Dr. Nii Narku Quaynor.

    3 This description of the knowledge society was adapted from an article in the ICT Capacity handbook 1999 by Day, B. & Mjwara, P. titled The National Research and Technology Foresight Project.

    4 This example was provided by Tom Peters in his book entitled Re-imagine!

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     A New World

     The following prediction was made by John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco:

     Over the next two decades, the Internet economy will bring about more dramatic changes in the way

     we work, live, play and learn than we witnessed during the last 200 years of the Industrial Revolution.

    The meaning of this prediction is astounding when one considers the profound social and economic

    consequences of the industrial age, which often shattered centuries of tradition, social patterns and cultural and religious assumptions. Consider the impact of some of these great inventions of the industrial revolution provided below and then reflect again on the statement made by John Chambers,

     the CEO of one of the world‟s most successful companies:

    The telephone:

    It has saved lives by getting rapid word of illness, injury, or famine from remote places. By joining with the elevator to make possible the multi-story residence or office building, it has made possible - for better or worse - the modern city. By bringing about a quantum leap in the speed and ease with which

     information moves from place to place, it has greatly accelerated the rate of scientific and technological

     change and growth in industry. Beyond doubt it has crippled if not killed the ancient art of letter

    writing. (The telephone: impact and expansion, Joshua G. Baldner)

    Railroads: Before the invention of the steam locomotive and railroads - the most sophisticated form of transportation was the horse and cart. The impact of railroads was revolutionary because it mechanised

     the duties of humans and quickened the transport of intelligence, information and products. Railroads

     stimulated industry and eventually modernised the world with machines, engines and electricity.

    Containerisation:

    In 1970, it would take 108 men five days to unload a timber ship. 30 years later, it takes 8 men 1 day to

    unload. That is, what previously took 540 man-days, now takes 8 man-days. (Reimagine, Tom Peters) ICT also offers real opportunities for enabling socio economic development.

ICT for Development

    5ICT is now being increasingly recognised as having an important role to play in enabling socio-economic development.

    In its report, „Creating a Development Dynamic‟, the Digital Opportunity Initiative provides the following justification

    for the potential of ICT to satisfy development objectives:

    ; ICT is pervasive and cross cutting: It can be applied to the full range of human activity, from personal use to

    business and government. It allows for tailored solutions that meet diverse needs.

    ; ICT is a key enabler in the creation of networks: Those with access, experience exponentially increasing returns as

    usage and collaboration increases.

     5 Hewitt de Alcantara, C. (2001). The Development Divide in a Digital Age. An Issues Paper. The Hague,: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. Marker, P., McNamara, K., & Wallace, L. (2002). The significance of information and communication technologies for reducing poverty. London: DFID. International Labour Organization (ILO). (2001). World Employment Report. Life at Work in the Information Economy: ILO.

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; ICT fosters the dissemination of information and knowledge by separating content from its physical location: The

    flow of information is largely impervious to geographic boundaries - allowing remote communities to become

    integrated into global networks and making information, knowledge and culture accessible, in theory, to anyone. ; The "digital" and "virtual" nature of many ICT products and services allows for zero or declining marginal costs:

    Replication of content is virtually free regardless of its volume, and marginal costs for distribution and

    communication are near zero. As a result, ICT can radically reduce transaction costs.

    ; ICT's power to store, retrieve, sort, filter, distribute and share information seamlessly can lead to substantial

    efficiency gains in production, distribution and markets: ICT streamlines supply and production chains and makes

    many business processes and transactions leaner and more effective.

    ; The increase in efficiency and subsequent reduction of costs brought about by ICT is leading to the creation of new

    products, services and distribution channels within traditional industries, as well as innovative business models

    and whole new industries: Intangible assets like intellectual capital are increasingly becoming the key source of

    value. With the required initial investment being just a fraction of what was required in the more physical-asset

    intensive industrial economy, barriers to entry are significantly lowered, and competition increased. ; ICT facilitates disintermediation, as it makes it possible for users to acquire products and services directly from the

    original provider, reducing the need for intermediaries: This cannot only be a considerable source of efficiency,

    but has in fact been one of the factors leading to the creation of so-called "markets of one," leveraging ICT's

    potential to cater to the needs or preferences of users and consumers on an individual basis. ; ICT is global: Through the creation and expansion of networks, ICT can transcend cultural and linguistic barriers

    by providing individuals and groups the ability to live and work anywhere, allowing local communities to become

    part of the global network economy without regard to nationality, and challenging current policy, legal and

    regulatory structures within and between nations.

    The report however, also makes the point that there remains a stark reality between the two types of world citizens: one empowered by access to ICT to improve their own livelihood - the other stunted and disenfranchised by the lack of access to ICT and of critical development opportunities.

     “Unprecedented global flows in information, products, people, capital and ideas offer

     great potential for radical improvements in human development, but left unabated, they

     may also serve to worsen and entrench the spiral of poverty which already exists in many

    communities and countries.”

    Creating a Development Dynamic: Final Report of the Digital Opportunity Initiative

The Digital Divide

This disparity, between those who do and don‟t have access - and are able to use modern ICT is referred to as the digital

    divide. The progress arising out of the ICT revolution brings limitless opportunities for humans to improve their quality of life. However, due to increasing disparities between the rich and the poor, not everyone has equal access to these opportunities.

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    In a recent report titled „Spanning the Digital Divide‟, Bridges.org found that, „Underneath the apparent widening and narrowing of the ICT divides, the underlying trend is that privileged groups acquire and use technology more effectively, and because the technology benefits them in an exponential way, they become even more privileged. The infusion of ICT into a country paints the existing landscape of poverty, discrimination, and division onto the new canvas of technology use. Because ICT can reward those who know how to use it with increased income and cultural and political advantages, the resulting digital divide shows up in increasingly stark contrast. Therefore, ICT disparities

    usually exacerbate existing disparities based on location (such as urban-rural), gender, ethnicity, physical disability, age, and, especially, income level, and between "rich" and "poor" countries.‟

     Internet disparity demonstrating the digital divide

     The above graphs, from the G8's Digital Opportunity Task Force, show that over time, the division

     between developed and developing countries has increased, even as all countries have steadily

     increased their number of Internet Users (left hand side figure). Also, the spread of Internet users

    among the world‟s population is much more skewed than that of the use of other ICT‟s such as TV or

    telephones. The inequality of Internet usage is even bigger than the spread of GDP between the

    world‟s rich and poor countries.

    The challenge in South Africa and the rest of the developing world is to ensure the demise of the digital divide and further socio-economic polarisation. The use of ICT for information sharing, knowledge creation and skills development must be free to all citizens ensuring their equal participation in the digital world.

NEPAD and the African Renaissance

    Africa has responded to this challenge and the related and greater challenge of eradicating the socio-economic divide

    strdbetween the 1 and 3 world, in part, by the formation of The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). NEPAD is a holistic, comprehensive and integrated, strategic framework that gives concrete expression to the African Renaissance and the realisation of the „African Century‟. Its primary objectives are:

    ; The eradication of poverty,

    ; Setting African countries - individually and collectively - on a path of sustainable growth and development,

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    ; Ensuring the complete and propitious integration of Africa into the global economy; and

    ; Accelerating the empowerment of woman.

     "As we strengthen the bonds of friendship and solidarity with our fellow Africans we

     have an obligation to help ensure that, in our country and everywhere else on our

     Continent, no African child should ever again walk in fear of guns, tyrants and abuse;

    that no African child should ever again experience hunger, avoidable disease and

    ignorance; that no African child should ever again feel ashamed to be an African."

    President Thabo Mbeki, State of the Nation Address 2001

    Towards fulfilling these objectives, NEPAD has identified capacity building and increased investment in education, science & technology and skills development as a priority. Their ambitious targets, that include bridging the digital divide and developing the capacity to solve Africa‟s problems from within, send a clear statement of the commitment of Africa‟s leaders to the effective use of ICT as a tool for social and economic development.

    “We must continue to fight for liberation against poverty, against underdevelopment, against marginalisation. And the technology, the information and communication technology … is a critically important tool in that struggle”

     President Thabo Mbeki, Imbizo for African Youth, 2001

The Digital Divide in South Africa

    Nationally, the importance of ICT in bridging the socio-economic divide has also been recognised: “… a critical and pervasive element in economic development in the current age is the optimum utilisation of information and communication technology.”

    President Thabo Mbeki, State of the Nation Address, 2002

    stAlthough far ahead of the rest of Africa, we are however far behind the 1 world in providing access to ICT. It is

    estimated that there are 6.85 PCs per 100 inhabitants in South Africa, versus 1.06 per 100 inhabitants in Africa, 17.94 in

    6Europe, and 36.62 per 100 people in the UK. In terms of the Internet, South African access is growing rapidly and is again far ahead of the rest of Africa, but still lags behind developed countries.

6 Statistics extracted from a report titled “Taking Stock and Looking Ahead: Digital Divide Assessment of the City of Cape Town, 2002” by the bridge.org.

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    7Table 2: PC density and Internet access in selected countries

    Within South Africa, there also exists a digital divide. This divide has been exacerbated by a legacy of racial segregation and discrimination that have led to huge inequality - notably, economic disparity and poverty, inequality of public infrastructure, inequality of education and geographic isolation.

    THE DIGITAL DIVIDE IN SOUTH AFRICA Webchek's Project SA Web User 2002, a random survey of World Wide Web users who access the

     Web at least once a month either at home and/or at work, illustrates the digital divide in major

    metropolitan areas of South Africa, as set out below.

     The above survey covered only central urban areas, excluding township communities. The results would likely show wider disparities if township populations were to be included. While some rich

     suburbs have 70 phones per 100 people, in parts of the country this statistic falls as low as 0.1 per 1,000

     people - the same is true for access to PCs.

Without addressing these huge disparities, government‟s vision of creating a better life for all is in jeopardy of being

    mere rhetoric. Especially so, considering the impact that ICT has already had for other developing nations, for example

    8- India's ICT exports grew from $150 million in 1990 to nearly $4 billion in 1999. McKinsey & Company is

    9optimistically estimating that India will generate more than $17 billion in revenue from IT enabled services by 2008.

7 Statistics extracted from a report titled “Taking Stock and Looking Ahead: Digital Divide Assessment of the City of Cape Town, 2002” by the bridge.org.

    8 Annual report 2001/2, Global Digital Divide Initiative 9 Statistic quoted from:The information revolution and globalisation, Chowdhury, N

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Bridging the Digital Divide - A South African Response

In order to advise on the optimal use of ICT to accelerate the development of an information society the South African

    government has set up two prominent advisory councils. Both The Presidential International Advisory Council on

    10Information Society and Development (PIAC on ISAD), comprising international leaders in the ICT sector, and The

    11Presidential National Commission on Information Society and Development (PNC on ISAD), comprising prominent

    South Africans, have recommended that education should form the top priority of South Africa‟s ICT for development strategy.

Another critical component in the struggle to build „a better life for all‟ has been government‟s launch of the National

    Skills Development Strategy, in June 2001. Spearheaded by the Department of Labour, the strategy has the following key objectives:

    ; Developing a culture of lifelong learning,

    ; Fostering skills development in the formal economy,

    ; Supporting skills development in small business,

    ; Promoting skills development for employability and sustainable livelihoods through social development; and

    ; Assisting new entrants into employment.

    As an integral part of this strategy, the National Department of Education has committed itself to ensuring that education and training meet the needs and expectations of commerce and industry as well as the need of the South African people for relevant learning opportunities. The role of ICT in transforming education was emphatically documented in the „Draft Whitepaper on e-Education‟: „The Department of Education believes that developments in

    ICT create access to learning opportunities, redress inequalities, improve the quality of learning and teaching and deliver lifelong learning.

    The Department reiterated its conviction by setting a challenging but achievable e-Education policy goal: „Every South African learner in the general and further education training bands will be ICT capable (that is use ICT confidently and creatively to help develop the skills and knowledge they need to achieve personal goals and to be full participants in the global community) by 2013.‟ (Draft Whitepaper on e-Education).

GautengOnLine is the GDE‟s response to attaining this vision at a provincial level and in so doing provide a beacon and

    valuable lessons for other provinces to follow. In addition, GOL is closely aligned with the broader economic development strategy for Gauteng.

The ‘Smart’ Province Response

    10 The PIAC on ISAD comprises a number of top level international executives from companies as distinguished as Hewlett Packard, Sun systems inc, IBM, Cisco Systems, SAP AG & Vivendi Universal. Mark Shuttleworth is also a member of the council. 11 The PNC on ISAD comprises 31 members that include 5 director generals of government departments (communications, public service & administration, trade & industry, agriculture and arts, culture, science & technology), about 8 CEOs from South Africa’s major IT companies, NGOs and relevant representatives.

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    The Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) has a vision for making Gauteng a „Smart Province‟ to increase investment, economic growth and job creation. The plan is to create an enabling environment within Gauteng in which business will thrive. Through Blue IQ, the economic infrastructure development plan, GPG is expected to spend up to 7 billion rand. But delivering on the vision of creating a smart province where businesses „… will create better products, faster and

    12more cost-effectively than anywhere else in the world‟ will require more than providing world class infrastructure. It

    will also require smart people.

     “…infrastructure alone does not make a smart province but it is smart people who make it smart through their innovation.”

     Pradeep Maharaj, CEO Blue IQ

    In line with these objectives and the Gauteng Provincial Government‟s strategy for a productive, skilled and healthy society - the Gauteng Department of Education has set the following priorities:

    1. Developing the spirit for learning and teaching and contributing to the national identity: The aim is to entrench

    community ownership of schools so that they become centres of community life and open schools. The education

    system will inculcate national values and promote patriotism. Educators will need to take up their roles as

    facilitators, mediators and councillors.

    2. Implementing a technology enabled environment: The intention is to transform the teaching and learning

    environment so that there is a shift away from teacher-centred, task-oriented memory based education (with

    technology at the periphery), to an inclusive an integrated practice where learners work collaboratively, develop

    shared practices, engage in meaningful contexts and develop creative thinking and problem solving skills. 3. Providing a high quality and effective education: The goal is to ensure that quality learning and teaching is

    occurring in all classrooms including those in rural areas and special education schools. Outcomes Based Learning

    and the Revised National Curriculum statements will form the foundation for classroom pedagogy. Further,

    effective and holistic school management programmes will support the drive for quality and effectiveness in

    education.

    4. Developing the capacity to ensure efficient delivery of education: Education will be delivered via a highly skilled

    workforce that is supported by a smaller professional bureaucracy.

    5. Contributing to economic growth, poverty alleviation, job creation and wellness: Education must allow learners to

    take their place as employers in the economy. FET at both secondary and tertiary levels must be aligned with the

    needs of the labour market. To promote a productive workforce that can sustain economic development,

    programmes to combat HIV/AIDS will become even more prominent.

    The GDE recognises that a critical component in the delivery of the above goals is the need to transform the education system to provide quality education for all. This need arises from the contemporary demands of an information age, compounded by an educational system that had previously been skewed to favour only a minority.

12 Pradeep Maharaj, CEO of Blue IQ

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An Educational Challenge

    At the dawning of the information age, the challenge that is common to many governments around the world is the transformation to an education system that equips individuals with relevant skills of an information society.

    „In the information age, the human beings that industry needs are those that can do their own

    thinking, get actively involved, work in teams and be innovative, not merely industrious. The problem is that the factory model school that doesn‟t encourage those qualities is still with us and needs to be replaced by a new kind of schooling that does.‟

     Bill Blakemore ABC news

    „Individuals in the Information Society on average do less physical and more mental work. Mental work is more frequently accomplished with the aid of information and communication technologies. Members of the Information Society have unprecedented amounts of information at their fingertips; today a single CD-ROM at the cost of a few (rand) can contain more information than one would once find in a professional‟s library; the Internet offers vastly more still, and is estimated to be growing at the rate of seven million pages a day. The PC brings more computing power to the desktop than was available in a major university of the 1960s.

    People work in small groups. In the Information Society, groups on average have more specialised expertise, and link more intensively via a variety of electronic media. They receive more information, analyse it more deeply and rapidly, and use more complex strategies for drawing conclusions and selecting actions. Moreover, groups are no longer constrained to be in close physical proximity to function effectively, and teams can now be spread across the globe….

    Moreover, rates of change accelerate. An individual may work in several professions during a career. Roles change in the Information Society faster than in earlier social orders and knowledge relevant to those roles accumulates more

    13rapidly.‟

    In this context, the continuing pace of technological innovation will result in more frequent changes in knowledge and

    stskills that workers will need if they are to play high value roles in the economies of the 21 century. Education systems‟

    will therefore need to prepare children „not just with a larger set of facts or a larger repertoire of specific skills, but with the capacity to readily acquire new knowledge, to solve new problems, and to employ creativity and critical thinking in

    14the design of new approaches to existing problems.‟

    „Stability is dead. Education must therefore prepare young people for an unknowable,

    ambiguous, rapidly changing future. Which means that „learning to learn‟ is far more important than mastering a static body of facts.‟ Tom Peters, Re-imagine

13 Extract from a paper by John A. Daly, Education, Information and Communication Technologies; and the Millennium Development Goals Retrieved March 15, 2004, from http://www.geocities.com/ResearchTriangle/System/8616/page2a.html

    14 (1997) Report to the President on the use of Technology to strengthen K-12 education in the United States http://www.ostp.gov/PCAST/k-12ed.html

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