Tanzania needs to re invest in “e-education”

One of the problems that such developing countries have always confronted with in their efforts to provide education to their people is shortage of qualified teachers, teaching and learning materials and unsupportive education infrastructure.

In developed world provision of education has gone to the next level whereby some have resorted to come up with e-learning platforms as a strategy to simplify teaching and learning.

An online learning platform is an integrated set of interactive online services that provide trainers, learners and others involved in education with information, tools and resources to support and enhance education delivery and management.

These platforms allow students to learn beyond what is taught in a classroom and are able to engage with their peers and teachers online. Tanzania, like other developing countries, is confronted with shortage of qualified teachers, especially in science subjects, a challenge that calls for charting out strategies to resolve it.

This problem persists in both primary and secondary schools in the country given the fact that the number schools have multiplied in recent years, so is an enrollment rate.

Having noted such a challenge the government has taken several measures to address them which includes (but not limited to) expanding the capacity of teacher training institutes and inviting other stakeholders in training teachers to meet the demand.

With the multiplication of schools and a dramatic increase in number of students in the country experts believe that e-learning platforms can play a pivotal role in simplifying learning and teaching.

In an attempt to respond to such challenges, the government has welcomed Huawei-a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider-to bring the technology in the country.

Commonly known as Smart Education, the implementation of the e-education project would revolutionise the teaching and learning in primary and secondary schools, especially those located in the remote areas.

Huawei’s competence to bring the technology in the country is of course unquestionable given the fact it managed to install the same system at Baogang School in Shenzhen City, China through which the teaching and learning is made simple.

A group of journalists from Tanzania visited the school and were taken through the modus operandi of the system. Huawei’s International Media Affairs Manager Mr Schloss Glenn James who spoke to the journalists, said the e-education project is set to solve Tanzania’s education crisis and address the challenge of teacher’s shortage.

He told the media delegation that the e-education project would provide remote learning solution with the latest ICT technology in order to provide teaching resource remotely and solve the problem of shortage of teachers in schools.

He said ‘Smart education’ which has proved success in China, should be replicated in Tanzania to improve the level of education. Mr James said that since e –education system was put into use at Baogang Primary School in Shenzhen, the quality of educational improved.

He said that the establishment of E-education project in Tanzania would help students from rural and low income families to get the opportunity to access quality education. He noted that the project would cover over 1,000 schools, benefiting more than 416,600 students.

Over 5000 teachers would also undergo training to equip them with skills to use the new system in teaching. “We, at Huawei, are pretty confident that this project, when implemented, will help to raise the quality of education offered to children as it is the case with Baogang Primary School in Shenzhen City,” he said.

According to him, e-education significantly helps to improve the quality of education, especially for Science and ICT subjects as well as to address the shortage of Science subject teachers and text books.

In an exclusive interview with Mr Rodney Thadeus Mbuya, an Acting Assistant Director from Tanzania Information Services (Maelezo),Mr James said the implementation of the project would help Tanzania have competitive, innovative and creative people, one of the objectives of the country’s Vision 2025.

However, to be able to facilitate e-learning schools must have be connected to the internet services, a responsibility that Mr James said would be carried out by Huawei. “The project will also support the fifth phase government strategy and effort to transform the country into a middle-income economy by 2025 and support the implementation of the National ICT policy on the use of ICT in teaching and learning,” he said.

A graduate from Dodoma University, who participated in the just ended Huawei’s Seeds for the Future program, Ms Khadija Omary said she hopes that the project would provide basic ICT training for teachers and students.

She added that she expects the project would not only help students to be ICT -literate but also improve education standards and provide self-employment later in life. “Since we are facing serious shortage of reference books in our schools this project will help students get more information on various topics from the internet and enable them catch up with our counterparts in other parts of the region and the world,”she said,” she said.

A survey by the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning indicate that teachers develop positive attitudes towards e-learning where computer exposure play a statistically significant contribution to their attitudes.

The survey recommended that training in e-learning needs to be provided to teachers to widen their understanding of e-learning. There is also a need to strengthen factors associated with teachers’ positive attitudes towards e-learning.

Also a report by a graduate team from the Goldman School of Public Policy (GSPP) at the University of California at Barkley says that Tanzania is struggling to provide an adequate number of qualified teachers to keep up with increased primary and secondary enrollment rates.

Teachers enter classrooms with minimal teaching experience and education, sometimes having never studied the subject they are teaching. As a result of this under-qualification, teachers struggle in critical topics such as math, science, and English, exacerbating the trend of low academic performance.

Lack of well-qualified teachers means the country is producing students whose education is not up to standards, as they are not passing national exams for graduation. This result is a great disappointment and an unacceptable outcome for students who represent years of investment and hope for the future.

“Primary and secondary school teachers must have sufficient knowledge and skills in the classroom. Teacher training will need to employ a variety of tools, among them education of and with Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs),” reads part of the report.