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​The mobile education training programme is addressing SA’s shortage of ICT skills

South Africa continues to lag behind other African countries in information communication technology skills training, according to the Jo’burg Centre for Software Engineering’s seventh annual ICT skills survey. As new technologies emerge, so too does the demand for specialised skills that create, implement and maintain these new technologies.

So exposure to ICT for all pupils is essential and there is an urgent need for skills training in it throughout the education sector.

To address this, the Vodacom Foundation, in partnership with the department of basic education, Microsoft, Cisco, Intel and Mindset, established the mobile education training programme to expose pupils to ICT and empower teachers to use it effectively in the classroom.

The programme includes the advancement of provincial teacher development institutes and 147 ICT teacher education centres. The centres provide development training to educators with a focus on ICT literacy and the effective use and integration of digital content in the classroom.

The functioning of these centres and their role in developing teacher competencies in ICT were the basis of this month’s Teachers Upfront, at which three ICT educationists gave national, provincial and more individual perspectives on the topic.

Josine Overdevest, a business and IT development specialist working with the Vodacom Foundation, opened the session and gave a more national overview of the programme. She described the process of drafting and implementing the norms and standards for the institutes and centres. The norms and standards aim to provide a national regulatory framework to ensure uniformity in the implementation of the mobile education training programme.

They also address some of the core issues related to the roles of the institutes and centres, with particular focus on infrastructure and equip- ment, staffing, governance and management, and funding.

To this end, a series of workshops — which brought together more than 300 stakeholders from various centres to explore a range of issues related to their functioning and management — was held in 2014 in all nine provinces. Participants were tasked with reviewing the draft norms and standards and given an opportunity to inform policy.

Overdevest shared key insights and concerns raised at the workshops, which included connectivity, especially in centres situated in remote areas, the shortage of staff and the overwhelming responsibilities faced by centre managers, as well as problems with security and the theft of equipment.

A particularly important aspect was the educators’ ICT knowledge. Implementors, in their efforts to carry out the training programme, had failed to grasp the extent of the ICT knowledge gap. As Overdevest explained: “What’s the level of ICT knowledge, and how do you keep track of it? That’s where we missed the mark the most. We always think teachers know more than they do. If you start your training at a level that’s too high, teachers say, ‘this is too fast for me’ and aren’t interested.”

The crucial matter of inadequate ICT pedagogical knowledge and the other issues raised are addressed in the norms and standards. The education department hopes to ensure that all centres can meet these by 2020.

Read more on at the Mail & Guardian here