Several initiatives to computerise public schools by government and the private sector are paving the way to electronic learning in Kenya which may not only change how students access learning materials but also boost the quality of education especially in remote areas where there are no libraries.
Current statistics from the Ministry of Education indicates that less than 2 per cent of public primary schools have access to basic computer studies and only 800 out of the 4,000 public secondary schools have computers.
However, through the Public Private Partnership programs the Ministry of Education expects to boost this number over the next three years.
Some of these initiatives includes the digitisation of school syllabus by the Kenya Institute of Education; computer donations and networking by telecommunication regulator , Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), and a partnership programme by the Clinton Global Initiative, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft and USAid aimed at improving education in Kenya.
Last year the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE) launched the first phase of a curriculum digitisation project that will enable both public secondary and primary schools to start offering e-learning.
The Minister for Education, Prof Sam Ongeri, says the move will harness access to technology driven practices and reduce disparities in curriculum delivery. “Curriculum review efforts will from now be geared towards modernization, including intensification of the integration of ICTs to cover all sub-sectors” said Prof Ongeri. “A number of people have been coming with foreign e-learning content for us to adopt but we have rejected all this so that we can develop our own.”
The initiative started in 2005, and KIE has been working through other partners and stakeholders. Other than developing the e-curriculum, KIE has also been involved in computer education pilot studies in 19 schools across the country.
Education Permanent Secretary, Prof Karega Mutahi, notes that the digitised content won’t replace teachers but will act as teaching aids to compliment their work. To address some of the challenges facing implementation of e-learning such as lack of electricity supply to most public schools and low ICT knowledge among the teachers, the government through the ministry of energy has prioritised provision of electricity to learning institutions through the rural electrification program and the use of solar power.
KIE has also developed an online course for orientation of primary teachers on the curriculum interpretation and implementation.
The Clinton Global initiative last year in September launched in collaboration with Kenya’s Ministry of Education, the Accelerating 21st Century Education (ACE) project aimed at improving the quality of primary and secondary education through the effective use of information and communications technology (ICT).
The various bodies are developing a best-in-class model for deploying ICT in education. Reflecting a combined commitment valued at more than $9 million, ACE will create “one-to-one e-learning” classrooms in 60 focus schools across Kenya. One-to-one e-learning, a model in which every student has access to a computer, helps foster an environment where young people can develop skills such as problem solving and critical thinking.
ACE will distribute more than 6,000 networked computers for student and teacher use and train approximately 7,000 teachers to effectively integrate ICT in the classroom.
In addition, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft will work together to establish a School Technology Innovation Centre (STIC) in Nairobi — a model that has been promoted in other countries through the Microsoft Partners in Learning programme. The centre will be dedicated to research on innovative emerging technology solutions and serve as a repository and showcase for best-known methods of teaching, learning and educational technology.
“ACE ties in with our mission to increase access to education, improve the quality of education and raise school enrolment rates for children from marginalised areas of East Africa,” said USAid Kenya Mission Director Erna Kerst. “We hope this collaboration will encourage more Kenyan children to complete school, improve teacher training practices and enhance professional development for teachers and school administrators with support from USAid.”
The ACE project focuses on 40 secondary schools and 20 primary schools across Kenya. It will deploy 6,000 student personal computers (PCs), 120 teacher laptops, 60 servers and the supporting wireless infrastructure to establish two e-learning classrooms in each school.
The project will also train 2,000 teachers at the schools, as well as 5,000 pre-service teachers at teacher training colleges in Kenya. In addition, ACE will offer education leadership forums to help lead teachers at the participating schools define a strategy for creating 21st-century learning environments.
Training will be provided through the Intel Teach Program and the Microsoft Partners in Learning programme, which offer proven ways to integrate technology into the curriculum for enhanced classroom learning. To promote a sustainable implementation of ICT in education, two instructors and one network administrator at each of the 60 schools will receive networking and IT training through the Cisco Networking Academy. The Networking Academy collaborates with educational institutions, governments and community-based organizations to provide students around the world with foundation ICT skills along with career skills such as problem solving, collaboration and critical thinking for increased access to career and economic opportunities.
“Collaboration among public and private-sector organizations can significantly enhance the quality of education for students around the world and strengthen the communities where they live,” said Tae Yoo, senior vice president, Corporate Affairs, Cisco.
ACE is closely aligned to the goals of the Ministry of Education, which recently digitized its national curriculum. The project will provide digital content for the revamped curriculum, with an initial focus on maths and science subjects for primary grades 4 to 6 and for the first two years of secondary education.
As part of this effort, Intel and the Ministry will collaborate in developing localized content for the Intel skoool Learning and Teaching Technology, an interactive Internet resource for learning maths and science. Microsoft is also working with the ministry to develop a new education portal where teachers can access e-mail and online educational content.
“By mobilizing our combined resources, we can help Kenya’s Ministry of Education put the implementation of its National ICT Strategy for Education on the fast track,” said Lila Ibrahim, general manager of the Emerging Markets Platform Group at Intel. “We believe that public-private collaborations like the ACE project are the most powerful means to invest in 21st-century learning and at the same time can help to stimulate the local economy.”
To encourage the sharing of knowledge related to tested best uses of technology in education, all of the key practices and methods learned from ACE will be captured in a School Technology Innovation Centre (STIC) that Cisco, Intel and Microsoft want to establish in Nairobi.
Like STICs in other countries, the Kenya centre will serve as a hub where education leaders and teachers from the region can access the latest information on technology solutions that are proven to enhance innovative teaching and learning, thus improving the skills needed by students to thrive in the 21st-century.
Centre visitors will also be able to view research on innovative educational technology solutions, witness technology demos, participate in training, and learn from best-practice models and outcomes. “Providing technology access and IT skills to students is a cornerstone for future innovation, economic growth and individual opportunity in the competitive global marketplace,” said Linda Zecher, corporate vice president of Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft.
Benefits of technology
To demonstrate the benefits of technology in the classroom, the STIC will feature 20 Intel-powered classmate PCs, networked via Cisco Wireless Technology, and the latest software offerings from Microsoft, including the new Windows 7 operating system.
The classmate PC is an affordable, full-featured, compact and rugged student laptop designed to promote interactive and collaborative learning among students and teachers. The STIC will also feature other technology products that are well-suited to teaching and learning.
Over the course of three years, the ACE project is expected to directly benefit an estimated 39,000 students and 7,000 teachers through improved educational infrastructure and training. The Ministry of Education estimates than an additional 300,000 people will benefit indirectly from the STIC and other aspects of knowledge sharing.