An entrepreneur has developed a multi-media e-learning tool aimed at tackling Zambia’s low level of education.
Called iSchool, the tool is currently used by some 2 000 children and aims to teach critical and analytical skills in English as well as the country’s major local languages.
In Zambia, most of the schools in rural areas are state run but the majority are dilapidated and often have untrained teachers. As a result, many pupils graduate without the necessary grades or skills to enter college or take on a professional job.
Having lived and worked in Zambia’s ICT sector for a number of years, entrepreneur Mark Bennett has long seen the many gaps in the education sector, spurring him to create iSchool.
iSchool is a multi-media education tool that uses an ICT platform to provide a comprehensive teaching and learning package for the entire Zambian education curriculum. Known as a Total Learning Environment (TLE), the tool includes full plans for teachers and interactive learning for the children.
The aim is to provide quality education using a standard that will equip students with the necessary critical and analytical skills and move away from the traditional rote teaching and learning method. The e-learning format is packaged in a small notebook with a portable server that can be set up literally anywhere an internet connection can be found.
“We are measuring numeracy and literacy levels up to the end of the year but so far there have been positive indicators,”
“We are measuring numeracy and literacy levels up to the end of the year but so far there have been positive indicators,” Bennett said of the tool’s success to date. “In some schools we have recorded a significant drop in absenteeism amongst children and teachers, people are coming in even when they are sick wanting to participate in the learning environment.”
“We are also seeing a shift in the kind of understanding where you are having students asking more questions and getting better equipped at problem solving,” he added. “If a school adopts the iSchool it takes over all of their teaching. They use our lesson plans for every lesson [there are 5 000 online plans] and our learning content on the computers/tablets. So it isn’t really a question of adding it to the national curriculum, but using it to cover the existing national curriculum.”
The iSchool concept is advantageous in a country such as Zambia where the student-teacher ratio is 1:100 and where only 17% of children graduate with the necessary skills to enter tertiary education where the drop-out rate is quite high.
“The idea is provide and raise the standard of education without necessarily having to build infrastructure or labs and also create a learning environment where there is none,” Bennett explained.
“The advantage of iSchool is the community can also benefit from the facility. It could be used after school hours to access information that would be useful for agricultural practices and information on access to markets. It can also work for mothers to come and learn business skills and maternal health care — it feeds into the community and becomes an enabler. We are also building these information portals along with the development of iSchool.” © The Big Issue Zambia/INSP