Solution to classroom demands for 2024, virtual schools?

Like it or not there remains an urgent need for South Africa to address school infrastructure backlogs, and consciously look at the root cause of overcrowding including the learners with special needs, and the broader education system.

Education is changing as new mediums make their presence felt and it remains imperative for the entire system focussed on education to get a much-needed facelift.

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Dr Corrin Varady, CEO at ed-tech platform IDEA outlines a proactive approach – looking to technology as an immediate solution to support educators.

It’s important to note how classroom demand for 2024 exceeds available space at schools across the country.

Adding to the problem is the slashing of school infrastructure allocations by R 1.7 billion which according to Equal Education could have easily provided 2 991 additional classrooms.

Technology could enable more students to participate in basic education without having to build more classrooms.

Varrady notes that government’s ed-tech roll-out is measured and evaluated solely on the number of schools equipped with internet connectivity and information and communication technology (ICT) devices like computers, laptops, and tablets. It also looks at whether they have performed better because of those devices.

“However, these are essentially just libraries of textbooks and resources that are now available digitally but are not used by either learners or teachers. There is impetus towards creating outcome-based formal e-learning programs, but they are not being developed or implemented by Government, so how can this produce improved results?

“We need to be measuring the impact of e-learning solutions on students’ ability to learn and teachers to teach, not whether a device went to a school or not.”

Varrady says the only way for ICT devices to have the desired impact is for their rollout to be accompanied not only by the deployment of a feedback-driven outcome-based digital curriculum to students but the provision of training and support to teachers so they can, in turn, educate their pupils on how to use these tools optimally.

“It is also crucial that we monitor student engagement and usage trends to gauge the efficacy of e-learning resources and pinpoint opportunities for enhancing the online learning experience. Moreover, obtaining input from learners, teachers, and parents is essential for the ongoing improvement of e-learning programs.”

The solution lies in virtual schools and virtual school models according to Varrady.

“These would cater for learners who are most able to take on virtual learning, making room for those who are at risk to attend in-person schools. It has long been said that the move to virtual schooling is inhibited by the digital divide, but what if we were to start bridging this with smaller cohorts to get the virtual school model functioning.”

The reality is not buying more devices and saying they don’t work, but investing in a different model of learning using technology.

Should government not adopt the virtual schools concept it will be unable to provide the number of schools, seats, and chairs required for all the students entering the education system now and in the future.

Also read: Why Lenovo Launched Hybrid Cloud Platforms and services

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