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Planning for ICT literacy in public schools in Tanzania

2nd December 2013
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ICT can transform the way that education is delivered and open the way to a new pedagogy. It can make it easier for teachers to plan and find high quality materials, and it can help pupils to find out more about the subjects that they are studying. Critically, new technology can enable teachers to tailor their teaching more closely to the abilities of individual pupils.

This article is going to explore some initiatives taken by Tanzanian government in providing conducive environment for utilisation of ICT in the education sector.

In the past decade we have witnessed some initiatives aimed at integrating ICT in Tanzania’s education sector. The first initiative was taken by International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) which saw formulation of 11 ICT projects for education sector and the birth of the Tanzania e-Schools initiative and many other ICT activities in education sector.

In year 2002 a stakeholders’ workshop was called by the Ministry of Education with support from the International Institute for Communications Development (IICD), a Dutch NGO. During the stakeholder’s workshop a round table identified areas of ICT interventions and 11 project proposals were generated.

These projects helped to raise awareness of the benefits and the potential gains in adopting ICT in the education sector which in turn elevated ICT to a priority area in education planning. All this has, as a result, paved way to tremendously increase of awareness of the benefits of ICT within the Education sector.

With the raised awareness the potential that ICT has demonstrated in improving the quality and access to education, the government, through the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training has at that time developed an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy for Basic Education (July 2007) that among other things, was supposed to structure the adoption of ICT within the education sector.

Tanzania has already developed an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy for Basic Education which incorporates the integration of ICTs in pre-primary, primary, secondary and teacher education, as well as non-formal and adult education. The policy considers issues of infrastructure; curriculum and content; training and capacity development; planning procurement and administration; management, support and sustainability and monitoring and evaluation.

Most private schools in the urban centres such as Dar es Salaam are already using ICTs, albeit without a formal setting or a policy framework. This impetus has come from parental pressure and the desire for students in these schools to achieve high national grades. However, even in these schools ICTs are mostly confined to administration.

There is some limited use for teaching basic ICT skills, however, in most cases ICTs have not been integrated as a medium of instruction. Most of the activity was within the secondary school level, with negligible movement in primary and lower levels. The eSchool Forum, which was comprised of ICT for education stakeholders, has formulated a five-year ICT in secondary schools programme, the eSchools Programme.

This programme was meant to equip schools with ICT equipment (including access to the Internet), adopt educational management information systems at both the school and ministry level, and develop curriculum and online content for secondary schools. The programme proposal suggested a phased approach for ICT starting with 200 schools in phase one and a large scale rollout of 2000 schools in phase two with a nationwide coverage.

The Ministry of Education with support from SIDA initiated a programme for introducing ICT in teachers’ colleges in 2005. The programme aimed at improving the quality of teacher education by using ICTs to improve both pre-service and in-service teacher education. The teacher training programme formed the first phase of the implementation of the sector-wide implementation of ICT in education.

This project has already started. The colleges have been equipped with thin client computers with a server and Internet access. Tutor technicians have trained on support and networking essentials to be able to offer installation and maintenance services to colleges.

Tanzania government issued an order to ban the use of computers and television in 1974; this order was lifted in 1984 and since then the country has been playing catch-up in its use and adoption of ICT, fortunately with renewed vigour.

The country adopted a national policy in 2003 that identifies the development of infrastructure as key in the development and use of ICT in the country. The policy also recognises the strategic input that ICT can have in the education sector. The liberalisation of the communications sector gave a big boost to the development of telecommunications.

The use of ICT in Tanzanian schools is not entirely new. In the late 1960s and early 1970s primary and secondary schools were provided with radios to enable students to listen to educational programmes designed by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with and broadcast by Radio Tanzania, the state radio station.
The implementation of the new ICT Policy for Basic Education will undoubtedly improve access to and use of ICT in education.

The policy foresees the use of a wide range of ICTs, from radio and mobile telephony to computers and Internet, to reach educational objectives. Other initiatives aimed at bringing ICTs into schools have been championed by several NGOs such as the Tanzania Computers Literacy in Secondary Schools Trust Fund, which procures and refurbishes computers for use in schools and which has equipped over 20 schools with computer labs and trained students to maintain the computers.

The organisation has also experimented with the use of open source software and thin client technology in an effort to lower the cost of acquisition.

Other NGOs active include the Tanzania Education Services Trust, the Best Education Trust Fund, and the Distance Learning Educational Services, which prepares and hosts on-line study notes and past examination papers for revision by students.

There are several projects at the national level, projects that have now been included as part of the national ICT policy for education.

(a) ICT Implementation in Teachers’ Colleges: This was a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Education and SIDA aimed at introducing ICT in all teacher-training colleges in the country. The project was initiated in 2005 when a proposal was developed by Schools Online, an NGO based in the US and with offices in Tanzania at the time, and sold to the ministry as an initiative to improve access and quality of education in the country. The programme’s main goal is to improve the quality of teacher education by using ICTs in pre-service and in-service sessions. Tutors were expected to become ICT literate and able to use ICT as a tool for teaching and learning as well as for management and administration. The benefits of preparing ICT-literate teachers are expected to spill over to schools when implementing initiatives like e-school or e-learning.

(b) ICT Development in Secondary Education: The eSchool Forum which was formed after the education stakeholders workshop organized by the ministry of education in 2005, has submitted a programme proposal to the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. The proposal recommended the introduction of ICT in secondary education, in phases starting with 200 schools in phase 1 (2006 to 2008), a large scale rollout covering 2,000 schools in phase 2 (within five years), and nationwide coverage by 2015. The proposal covered a wide range of activities that need to be undertaken within the programme, including ICT infrastructure development in the schools, technical resources, student management at school levels (integrated EMIS), content and curriculum development, e-learning, sensitisation, human resources, and programme co-ordination and funding.

(c) Education Management Information System (EMIS: The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training is implementing a nationwide education management information system (EMIS) to produce and manage educational data and information. The EMIS is expected to collect, process, utilise, and disseminate education data to educational stakeholders on a timely basis. This project is currently being implemented at the ministry headquarters, however some regional and districts offices have been provided with computers and printers. Computer training has taken place for 19 regional education officers, 19 regional academic officers, 35 district education officers, and 34 statistical and logistics officers.

(d) Computer Procurement and Refurbishment for Schools: This project was managed by the Tanzania Computer Literacy for Secondary Schools Trust Fund, a local NGO based in Dar es Salaam. The project procured used computers and received donations from donors and other organisations, refurbishes these computers and uses them to equip computer labs in secondary schools. The project also train students in basic computer maintenance so that they can become the first-level support for the labs. This project was supported by IICD.

(e) Tanzania Education Services Web site: This Web site publishes information on the education sector in Tanzania, including information about schools, examination results, and school administration. There is a wealth of information including contact information for 1,060 schools and 47 teacher colleges. This project was supported by IICD.

(f) Barclays/Digital Links/TEA Computer for Schools Project: Barclays Bank and Digital Links International have formed a partnership to spur the growth of ICT in schools across East Africa. A three-year programme has set targets to place 10,000 computers in approximately 500 schools.

Implementation of the programme is through collaborative partnerships with organisations in each country. For Tanzania, the Barclays ICT project for schools is implemented by Tanzania Education Authority (TEA), Tanzania Commission of Science and Technology (COSTECH), and Mkombozi Centre for Street Children.

We are now living in an information age whereby transformation has been happening around the world with the ubiquity of ICT. It is natural that this transformation must be reflected in the way we teach and the way we learn. Todate, such a transformation has not much been taken up by the government in an effort to offer a wide range of ICT services to the citizens especially primary schools.

In Tanzania most of schools have not gone through this technological process and very few have been equipped with an ICT infrastructure. In primary schools in Tanzania, ICT has been included in curriculum while in the secondary sector it has been started to be regarded as a different subject and geared towards a skills-based exam but for few private secondary schools.

ICT can be a powerful resource for supporting school-directed change. Funding for ICT in Schools will influence the direction and the speed of innovation over the next four years. It is our recommendation that resources are targeted to areas that will drive the priorities and strategies to make transforming the way we learn into a reality.
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The writer is a specialist in education management, planning, economics of education and policy studies, and can be reached at: +255754304181 or masozi.nyirenda@gmail.com 

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN