South Africa’s education system is one that is plagued by a lack of resources and access to quality teaching which can be attributed to apartheid and governmental mismanagement since. The integration of technology in the classroom, however, is serving as a tool for change and improvement. This unification has come in various forms with two models leading the change: digitising of the traditional classroom as well as the creation of mobile classrooms.
What does education in South Africa look like?
The legacy of apartheid on the education system has left the vast majority of the population without access to adequate education. The Bantu Education Act of 1953 was a system of under-education that ensured people of color received an inferior quality education that prepared them for semi- and unskilled labor.
The impact this has on the current education system is that the majority of current teachers were educated under this law, leading to poor quality teachers who did not receive proper training while also creating a cycle of poverty that is linked to race. Parents do not have adequate funds to pay for expensive private schools. In public schools (which educate 97% of the school-going population (9)), 27% of students are still illiterate by Grade 6, compared to Tanzania where only 4% cannot read and write by this age (2). Additionally, only 37% pass their final Matric exams which are required for entry into tertiary studies. For students in rural areas, schools often lack electricity and running water, in addition to the absence of educational necessities such as books and quality instruction (1).
Quality and sustainable improvements need to be made to South Africa’s education system to break this cycle.
Solution 1: A Move from Blackboards and Chalk to Screens and Stylises
The first model making use of technology to improve access to education in South Africa is Curro Schools, an independent group of private schools that span across all income levels. Their newest addition is Curro DigiEd.
Their preferred medium of instruction is explanatory videos and animations that students watch and then work in group to complete activities. This is facilitated by a tutor who assists students on an individual level. This method has been proven to be most effective for learning (8). They follow the South African curriculum with an added focus on science and technology to prepare learners for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Their strategy means fewer teachers, classrooms and physical aids such as books are needed. This significantly reduces the cost of school, thereby increasing accessibility. With school fees of approximately $160 per month, students are getting a private school education at the cost of the average public school (5).
Additionally, they are based in Cape Town’s central business district and have school hours from 8am to 5pm. This means students can accompany their parents on their work commute, addressing one of the main reasons students don’t stay in school: lack of transport (2). There is also the added benefit of children coming home with their parents, so there is no longer a need for other adults to watch them.
Solution 2: Reimagining the Conventional Classroom – Education on Wheels
A second solution is the use of mobile units that effectively bring the classroom to the students. This form of teaching is most effective for those in rural areas, where local schools are greatly under-resourced.
Vehicles can be tailored to the needs of each school, and most importantly, each student (8). Each unit is equipped with computers with internet access, giving students an endless stream of personalized educational content. The use of these mobiles in rural areas can help bridge the gap between lesser developed parts of the country and urbanized areas (6).
While these vehicles can be used alone, they can also serve as an extension of already-existing conventional schools. For schools where funding is a hindrance, vehicles can travel between institutions to offer courses such as computer coding and online interactive classes for portions of the day and so resources can be shared (6).
Are these methods sustainable and beneficial for the greater population?
These different models both offer feasible improvements to access to quality education within the country. They both have the potential to be implemented on a wider scale which could also lead to a decrease in costs.
South Africa’s education system is rampant with problems that stem from its exclusionary history. Technology is one of the ways in which access to education can be improved and the widespread inequality reduced.