, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 25 – The writers of science fiction stories often describe a world where giant computers control the government, industry and commerce in many countries.
More than that, they envision a time when every home will have access to a computer that serves as a household manager and provides knowledge and information or advice on any subject, all at the touch of a button.
Indeed, during the last 25 years, the use of computers has grown from something of a novelty into a multibillion dollar industry.
Twenty years ago, there were only about 100 computers in the world, whereas today there are about 300,000. The next two decades could see them numbering into the tens of millions.
In view of such growth, it is therefore a blaring truth that there is need for computer literacy in the Kenyan education system.
According to Education Minister Sam Ongeri, that will be the topic of discussion during the upcoming First Regional Education Conference on E-Learning scheduled to be held in Nairobi this month.
“In terms of policy environment, the Ministry has articulated the role of ICT in education in documents such as KESSP (Kenya Education Sector Support Programme),” he said.
The Education Minister pointed out that ICT integration will ensure access to quality and equitable education. He stated that the ministry has been actively developing local e-Learning content at the Kenya Institute of Education.
“The Ministry of Education in collaboration with the private sector through the Kenya ICT Trust Fund has also developed a Regional ICT Strategy for Education and Training aimed at making ICT integration possible at all levels of education and training,” he said.
“The computer has the potential to teach and to develop creativity and problem-solving abilities in ways that were previously not thought possible,” said the director of the Kenya Institute of Education, Lucy Nzomo.
She said that e-learning is a strategy and a tool to provide curricula support materials that are user friendly and improve the curricula.
“The Institute can come up with quality curriculum, but if the support materials are not available, then implementation can be hampered,” she stated.
She said that e-learning is going to be useful to Kenya especially on the aspects of access and equality so that the education system can become relevant to this century.
Without a doubt many developed countries have embraced e-learning in every aspect of education. For instance, one computer program allows the student not only to dissect a frog but also to reassemble it.
If the student performs the operation correctly, he is rewarded by seeing the frog come to life and hop off the screen. Other programs simulate the motion of the planets, portray the geography of the earth, or enable the student to fly a plane, drive a car, or perform chemical experiments.
Another way in which the computer is used is generally called computer-assisted learning. The computer asks a question. If the student answers correctly, it moves on to the next question. If not, it prompts the student with clues. This gives the student a one-on-one learning experience and allows him to proceed at his own pace.
Besides, a computer has infinite patience and does not get upset with the student when wrong answers are given, as a teacher might. This too is conducive to learning.
Microsoft East and Southern African representative Mark Matuga stressed the need for school teachers to appreciate the use if ICT in all aspects of education that they operate in especially in the education of the youth.
“I want to encourage each and every one of you to work as best as you can to publicise this upcoming conference as this is going to help us all in developing our skills in every aspect of ICT,” he said.
He pointed out that doing this will ensure that the country moves towards transforming the education sector in the country. Indeed, most schools now have computer-literacy classes. These classes teach students how to operate and program the machine. For those who are interested in a career in the computer field, the studies are very important.
Proponents of this type of curriculum strongly feel that all students should have some knowledge of computers and a fact that comes out strongly is that job prospects, both real and imagined give such classes strong appeal.
The computer can open up a vast source of information for the student. Using the appropriate equipment, students in one school can communicate with students in other schools for special projects.
They can also tap into large central libraries and data banks, gaining access to up-to-date information on a wide range of subjects that the library of their own school could never afford to maintain.
Clearly, when properly used, the computer is a teaching aid. The hands-on experience and the one-on-one situations made possible where there are enough computers are valuable for all students.
Making computers in education a success is really no different from making any school curriculum a success. What is needed is the right kind of programs taught by competent teachers.