In this file picture, learners at Boitumelo Secondary school in Tembisa township play with their new tablets. Picture: Paballo Thekiso
Now that our education system has been found to be not only dysfunctional, but a failure and in disarray, our highly acclaimed award-winning MEC for Education, Panyazi Lesufi, is looking at technology to solve the problem.

Unfortunately, research has shown that technology has never fixed a broken educational system, and it is not a short cut to success. Technology is not a substitute for good teaching. In fact, to use technology to fix under- performing classrooms is futile.

One study shows that the history of electronic technologies in schools is fraught with failures.

Todd Oppenheimer in his book, The Flickering Mind: Saving Education from the False Promise of Technology, said: “While technologies can have a positive educational impact in restricted circumstances, successes pale in comparison to failures overall.”

Here are some facts on the issue.

Technological applications require more tasks from teachers who may struggle to get their heads around, and in learning to use the new technology – for example, the setting up of new systems.

The use of tablets can be disruptive, involving reoccurring behavioural issues. Students have to be motivated as boredom sets in as the novelty wears off, and the focus moves on to other things not connected to education. It’s also highly impractical in teaching a class of 40 to 50 pupils.

The cost of implementation is extremely high, and not many schools or education departments can afford it. Access to the internet is also a problem.

Finland outperforms other countries because of its “low tech, high touch approach that emphasises educational basics”. Many good schools excel without much technology.

Are we to believe that Nobel Laureates, heads of states, and business elite received an inferior education because they were taught without information technology? Einstein didn’t grow up with computers.

Teachers can interact and engage creatively with their pupils – discuss, debate, teach good cogent argumentative skills, sound and critical thinking skills as well as writing, comprehension and communication skills.

The focus should be on better and properly trained teachers and strong administrators. Technology should be used as an aid to enhance one’s teaching, and not as a cure-all of educational ills.

The Azim Premji Foundation, working with tens of thousands of schools in India, and providing the necessary technology and well trained teachers, stated: “When we took stock at fundamental level we realised that our whole effort in computer-aided learning was, at best, a qualified failure there was no impact in a sustained systemic manner on learning”.

Technology has its place, but it is not the be-all and end-all of education. Teachers still reign supreme.


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