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Sunday, December 5, 2021

4IR: Digital Learning Assists Learners During COVID-19 Pandemic

PATRICK WADULA|

SCHOOLING has evolved across the world with the advent of the Covid19 pandemic which has changed the way teachers engage learners with their teaching methods.

When the President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa announced the state of disaster and effectively put the country under lockdown in March 2020, not only were businesses and other forms of economic and social activity halted but the education system came to a grinding stop.

Over the last 18 months, these schools have either been temporarily closed during periods of intensified lockdowns or, at best, operating on a limited rotational schedule where children have only attended schools for a few days a week.

However, this could not continue forever, as the world begun looking for alternatives of getting their economies back on track while under the lockdown and observing the Covid 19 regulations.

The global education system could not be left behind during this period as, the pandemic also helped the education sector indirectly to increase its pace in introducing the fourth industrial revolution or 4IR. Innovation and 4IR technologies in South Africa’s education sector.

Pupils and students needed to adjust and adapt to change by learning remotely using online education platforms created for schools. 

The teachers and lecturers equally had to upskill to digital teaching methods to remain relevant in the education sector.

In response to the emerging global phenomenon of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which prepares the world for the new body of knowledge, The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has approved the introduction of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) for Coding and Robotics for Grades R-9.

The new curriculum necessitates the training of subject specialists, co-ordinators, subject advisors, and teachers. In view of the Covid-19 pandemic and compliance with its regulations, the DBE the training is conducted virtually (online).

Unfortunately, digital learning has not grown substantially in South Africa due to several challenges that include limited access to the Internet, especially in rural communities, high data prices, lack of adequate bandwidth and storage (in terms of cloud computing).

Limited access to laptops, computers or tablets, and inadequate infrastructure required for using these devices (e.g., electricity loadshedding) and training in the use of computers have also been an impediment for learners to improve their learning skills through digital platforms.

To ensure digital learning becomes a way of life for learners, the MTN SA Foundation spends approximately R10 million annually on establishing and running states of the art multimedia centres at more than 400 urban schools and another 50 targeted at learners with special needs. Some of these multimedia centres can also be found at colleges, universities and TVET Colleges. 

To increase the use of digital platforms for learning purposes, MTN SA Foundation partnered with Siyavula, to introduce the Siyavula’s annual #1MillionMaths challenge five years ago

Explaining the challenge, MTN SA Foundation Manager for Special Programmes Judith Maluleka says the competition, challenges all high school learners to complete at least one million maths and science questions on the Siyavula online platform in one month.

In the recently released Trends in International Mathematics and Science 2019 Study (TIMMS), South Africa ranks consistently low in mathematics and science. A total of 20,829 pupils across 519 schools were assessed, with tests conducted according to curriculum-based content and cognitive thinking.

Maluleka says the #1MillionMaths challenge helps learners not only to understand maths and science, but also improve their digital learning skills.

“Until now, the #1MillionMaths challenge had focused only on learners competing individually. This year teachers are invited to enter the competition; learners can also compete as an entire grade or school.

Digital revolution.

Schools will compete against one another, for the chance to be crowned South Africa’s Maths or Science School Champion for 2021.

Maluleke says the idea is to bring the power of technology and a connected life to those most in need. This is being done by bringing Maths and Physical Science learning and support to schools across the country in both urban and rural areas to create the opportunity for students to be future-fit.  

For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic started, all public primary schools in South Africa fully reopened on 2 August 2021.

The move to reopen normal physical schooling doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning e-learning. There should be a way of integrating both methods of learning in the new schooling system.

Face to face interaction between learners is also important for shared learning experience between learners and a need to interact with their own age-mates in the same grade and school, as opposed to constantly be at home with the family.

  • * Inside Education
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