Technology can significantly improve education in South Africa

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It is estimated that for a child to receive ‘adequate’ attention in the classroom, the preferred learner-to-educator ratio (LER) in South Africa must not exceed 40 learners to one educator.


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It is estimated that for a child to receive ‘adequate’ attention in the classroom, the preferred learner-to-educator ratio (LER) in South Africa must not exceed 40 learners to one educator. The current LER level, according to www.childrencount.org.za, in South Africa is an ‘acceptable’ 35 learners per educator. While this may be considered an ‘adequate’ level, it is certainly not an ‘optimal’ one.

The Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) estimates that the optimal LER level in South Africa should be in the region of 29.2 learners for every educator.

With the vast varying sizes of classrooms, the LER can break through the ‘adequate’ threshold quite easily to reach a high level of over 50 learners per educator in some parts of South Africa. Unfortunately, anything from 35 pupils upwards puts significant pressure on the educator to perform to the best of their ability and provide sufficient attention to each learner.

At Pearson we believe that digital learning is playing an increasingly important role in enabling easier learning. After all, if high-quality content can be effectively delivered through technology, teachers can devote more time to creating innovative experiences, leading dialogues, or coaching students one-on-one in more targeted and focused interventions. Furthermore, teachers can use technology-based assessments to inform their instruction, helping them to rapidly identify where students are faltering and intervene with targeted coaching, before the student falls too far behind.

Unfortunately, teachers are still hesitant to introduce technology in the classroom. The perception they have is that technology may replace them. What they need to understand however, is that technology can lighten their heavy load and improve their teaching effectiveness. With proper training, educators can easily adopt and integrate such technology into their classrooms.

Educating teachers about the benefits of technology and enabling them to see the benefits of introducing it, will significantly reduce any fears they have in adopting teaching technologies.

If we want to succeed in the 21st Century, and if South Africa is to remain relevant, it is essential that the fear of technology in the classroom be overcome.

Pearson has for a number of years run workshops through the Pearson Marang Education Trust (PMET) aimed at demystifying the use of technology in the classroom and explaining how educators can best utilise it. Pearson Marang Education Trust was established to pursue education excellence through supporting best practice solutions to improve teaching and learning outcomes within challenging, under-resourced and disadvantaged contexts in South Africa. Its purpose is to contribute to the education community through direct provisioning of professional development and support, and through bursaries for public benefit, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education.

The most vital fact we need to get through to our teachers across the nation is that technology will never replace the role of the educator. However, what technology does provide is a different and more effective way to educate learners, teaching them in the manner they are most accustomed to in this digital age. All this, at the same time affording educators the opportunity to provide more interactive classes and deliver more targeted coaching to individual students that may require it.

Dr Nhlanhla Thwala, Academic Director at Pearson Institution of Higher Education

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