THE IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON EDUCATION IN RURAL SA
South Africa’s education system faces many challenges. This is true especially for our rural areas, where basic infrastructure is often lacking and combined with socio-economic circumstances, these remotely based learning institutions are kept at a disadvantage.
While access to information and communication technology may often be limited, digital teaching and learning solutions could potentially contribute to improving access to better quality education. In fact, as Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka so memorably stated at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2015, “With technology, we can achieve universal access to secondary education within a generation.” We believe technology can do the same for access to higher quality primary education.
We live in an exciting era, where technology increasingly contributes to solutions in education. But what impact can these digital teaching solutions have on some of the problems faced by rural learning institutions? Let us look at some of the specific challenges these institutions face.
As already mentioned, infrastructure is a major challenge. Often schools do not have access to running water, a proper physical space or electricity. The remoteness of these areas also leads to isolation and consequently curriculum structuring and planning are often neglected. As a result subject choices are also limited.
There is no denying that one of the biggest problems is poverty and the circumstances caused by it. In some cases, families move often, renting accommodation on per day or per week basis. This high mobility, along with other factors lead to low attendance rates at schools. Often parents cannot support learners with homework and teachers also limited access if any to a support system. Then there is also the language barrier created by not teaching or learning in a mother tongue, causing even further gaps in learning.
While this is by no means an extensive list, it is quite clear that these problems limit access to quality education and learners not completing school. Research shows that teachers play the largest role in boosting learners’ success rates. Herein lies a big opportunity for technology to impact education in rural areas – through upskilling teachers. Access to information and support through an online education community can equip teachers to feel more confident in their teaching methods. It can also provide them with the tools they need to enhance classes.
For learners, digital learning solutions offer opportunities beyond their physical location, such as distance education programmes and links to learners across South Africa or abroad even. Learners can also access learning materials remotely, which means they could carry on learning despite being absent. Further opportunities include access to different subject fields that would otherwise be inaccessible. The more familiar and skilled both teachers and learners become with these tools, the greater the opportunities become.
Despite the potential positive impacts, there are still various factors that limit these opportunities. Areas, where there is no electricity, the high cost of data and of course limited technological knowledge and resources, are obstacles that can hinder these kinds of solutions. But with the potential of something as simple as a tablet or a smartphone to implement some of these solutions, the possibilities to tackle these problems suddenly grow. By no means is technology the all-encompassing solution to the education in rural areas, but it certainly offers exciting prospects and hope for progress within the near future.
Learn more about digital solutions in education – visit www.eiffelcorp.co.za or contact us for more information.
D Plessis, P. 2014. Problems and complexities in rural schools: Challenges of Education and social development. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences. September Vol 5 No 20,