Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 | education, ICT in Africa
The Head of Department of the Western Cape Education Department, Ms Penny Vinjevold, has the difficult task to ensure high quality education for all learners in the province. It is expected of her to raise literacy and numeracy levels of all learners and to maintain a healthy lead in matric passes. All indications are that she is pulling out all the stops to achieve this.
But how does Ms Vinjevold feel about the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in her department. She allowed me to interview her on this topic and I’m pleased to post her responses to the questions I put to her.
Kobus: What is your view of the role of e-learning in education?
Penny: All media that provide opportunities for learning are important to education. e-Learning is particularly versatile and provides a range of routes to the wealth of knowledge available to man. It also provides the skills to access this knowledge. e-Learning provides an abundance of reading, writing and calculating opportunities but also so much more. For example, it provides manipulative skills and so contributes to what cognitive psychologists call ‘fluid’ intelligence. It also has the potential to provide high level, accurate and accessible content knowledge in formats that paper texts cannot: chemistry cell structures, maps, diagrams etc.
Kobus: How do you feel about the Khanya Project?
Penny: It has been very successful in providing access to computer and other electronic facilities to the teachers and learners of the Western Cape. As with all interventions in education, the benefit of this access is strongly influenced by the management of the school and the teachers at the school. In many schools, the Khanya project has added value to teaching and learning. In others the impact has been less obvious. The WCED needs to do more to see that e-learning is optimal.
Kobus: Now it is rumoured you want to bring Khanya to an end?
Penny: Governments start projects to see if they will be successful and then go to scale if they are. Khanya has been very successful but it will soon complete its mandate to provide e-learning facilities to all schools in the Western Cape. The WCED must now ensure that the project becomes part of its core function. In other words, we must make e-learning part of our mainstream activities.
Kobus: Don’t you think you’re putting the huge investment in the schools in the province at risk?
Penny: There are always risks if one changes course but we have planned to mitigate the risks. This planning began in 2009 and is on track for a successful handover but the successful handover is the responsibility of all those involved, the schools, the districts and Head Office and Khanya staff. We must ensure that the work that is currently done by Khanya becomes embedded in the work of the WCED, the districts and the Department of the Premier. This means careful planning, retaining some of the strategic personnel, including the work Khanya has done in the job descriptions of officials and making sure that the handover is successful.
Kobus: What is your vision of ICTs in the future?
Penny: My vision is that the legacy of Khanya thrives and that all the learners of the Western Cape, now and in the future, benefit from the wonderful learning opportunities that e-learning offers.
Kobus: Do you think the model established in the WC is replicable and will the WCED be willing to assist other provinces?
Penny: There is much that can and should be learnt from Khanya but this must be adjusted to suit other contexts. The WCED will do all it can to assist but it also has much to learn from other provinces and countries.
I thank the SG for agreeing to the interview and that she was willing for it to be published on this blog. I trust all of you now have a much clearer view of the good intentions of the WCED, but also of the mammoth task ahead of the department.
If we can make this work – moving e-learning from project mode to being a permanent feature of the education department’s service offering – it will be an accomplishment of which we all can be proud.