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In line with the vision of making our country a 'cyber' island, whereby Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) would become the 5th pillar, Government has come up with lots of projects in the education sector so that teachers can make use of ICT as a pedagogical tool. Introducing technology as a support in the education system that is providing ICT facilities is to ensure that all teachers use ICT facilities on a regular basis for teaching and learning has indeed been stated in the Education & Human Resources Strategy Plan 2008-2020. Indeed in this digital era, being no longer the sole authority of knowledge, teachers cannot lag behind but instead they need to adapt themselves to these innovations and adopt them in their teaching. Accordingly 'ICT in classrooms' is included as a module in teachers' training in the PGCE course. Our youngsters being from this technological era are no longer interested in the traditional talk and chalk method which explains the growing need to shift from traditional teaching to teaching with technology. But then are our secondary schools ready to use ICT as an integral part in our teaching and learning process?
Inventions have been driven by societal needs and slowly embedded in our culture. Technology, the facilitator of inventions, has worked its way in our life today. Technology can be defined as human innovation in action that involves the generation of knowledge and processes to develop systems that solve problems and extend human capabilities. Technology has been evolving with us since the beginning of the Prehistoric age, from the simplest of tools of the cave men to the now present future. Just imagine if the cave men didn't discover fire? This makes us realize the importance of technology in our ever changing society.
Technology is evolving at an astonishing rate. Not only has it dramatically changed the ways we work, learn, interact and spend our leisure time but it has revolutionised nearly every aspect of our daily life. From agricultural societies, there has been a shift to this technological era after having gone through the industrial age. Today technology plays a vital role in society. It increases efficiency and productivity of how we do and manage things. It also gives us larger possibilities by giving us ideas that we haven't thought about in the past.
Technology has been moreover seen as a major facilitator in the educational system. It offers new ways of teaching and learning, and provides new ways for all involved in education. The development of high-technology learning tools holds promise for ensuring for ensuring equity in educational opportunity for all students in all schools. Not only has technology become an essential tool for teachers as well as educators in their mission and vision but it has become an appropriate vehicle for promoting meaningful and engaged learning for students. We can see as well how it helps in the smooth running of educational institutions.
With the introduction of ICT at primary level has been the stepping stone for the Ministry of Education towards making Mauritius a cyber island and the ICT leader in the region. For a sustainable socio-economic development of our country the right environment needs to be created to harness Information and Communication Technologies. Hence the Ministry of Education, Culture and Human Resources must work in line with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology to instill a "technology temper" in our new generation. In this assignment we are going to take a closer look at the role of technology in school education.
ICT has witnessed a rapid growth throughout the world during the past decades. Its influence on our daily lives cannot go unnoticed. In fact, worldwide, much emphasis is being laid on the use of ICT as a teaching tool in the educational sector. With globalization which is in short interdependence within the economic, political and social units in the world, there exists no barriers. For developing countries, the ICT sector represents a means of progress to meet the standard. This explains therefore, the wish and urgency to "e-power" their people. This concept of global village brings all countries to participate in the global competition.
Following the same trend, Mauritius has the vision of converting itself into a "cyber island" and "a regional ICT hub". Alongside with sugar, textile, tourism and financial services, ICT has become a determining part of the Mauritian economy. In fact, ICT is considered as the fifth pillar. Additionally, the Mauritian Government is putting a lot of stress on the need to empower its citizens, irrespective of age groups.
However, since Mauritius does not possess many natural resources, we thus depend a lot on manpower. Therefore, much stress is being laid on education. The vision of the present Minister of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology is to make Mauritius the intelligent island of the region and a Centre of Excellence in the global village. His objective is to achieve the development of a skilled, versatile and competent workforce and in doing so; he strives to reach an objective of one graduate per family.
The use of ICT in the Mauritian education system has been constantly increasing during the past decade as no country can remain unexposed to the technology boom. Educational reform has played a crucial role in the initiation of students into the world of ICT at a younger age.
Educational reform started in late 1990's with the School IT Project. In 2003, a number of primary teachers completed their training at the Mauritius Institute of Education in ICT and taught ICT as a subject at primary level. Teachers of other subjects have also been encouraged to integrate ICT as a teaching and learning method.
At secondary level, ICT is already taught as a compulsory subject in lower classes from Form one to Form three. The syllabus covers the basics of hardware and software with emphasis on practical assignments and projects. At Form four and higher levels, ICT is offered as an option to students and the syllabus is more extensive. Due to increasing workforce demand in the ICT sector, more and more students have opted for this subject at school. The number of students sitting for ICT at School Certificate (SC) and Higher School Certificate (HSC) examination has increased over the years as shown in Figure 1. However, significantly fewer students are examined at HSC level as compared to SC level.
Figure 1: Students examined in ICT at School Certificate (SC) and Higher School Certificate (HSC).
Source:Central Statistics Office, Government of Mauritius.
As part of Government's broader strategy to make Mauritius a Cyber Island, schools are being encouraged to introduce and adopt ICT as a pedagogical tool across the curriculum. In line with this vision, the Government has implemented various projects such as Microsoft Partnership, interactive whiteboard and the Ministry of Education has launched various workshops for teacher training.
The NEPAD e-schools initiative, a regional programme encompassing 16 country participants already provides ICT equipment to students, teachers and administrators for the acquisition of ICT skills, using ICT across the curriculum and for school administration. Another innovation is the affiliation of schools to i.Net which enables schools to network through technology and share international best practices.
The Partners in Learning (PIL) is another project which promote towards innovative teaching strategies using IT and the use of searching engines as a pedagogical tool. Recently webcasting has been introduced for educational interactions between the different stakeholders namely Rectors, teachers and students.
For students taking mathematics at advanced level, an interactive multimedia CD-ROM has been launched by the MCA to help them master five important chapters namely complex numbers, differential equations, permutations and combinations, probability and vectors. Also, the "Physics ICT Data Logging Project", an innovative project for the use of ICT in the teaching of science, has already been launched on a pilot basis in 12 secondary schools. Moreover, IC3 that is the Internet and Computing Core certification is done in some 60 State Secondary Schools across the country during school holidays. IC3 is an internationally recognized certificate and helps to acquire knowledge for basic use of computer hardware, software and the internet.
Provision of ICT facilities right from the pre-school and Special Education needs (SEN) school levels is also being envisaged. The need for special IT facilities to cater for the special needs of these learners will be provided in terms of necessary logistic support.
Computer technology is a positive supplement to bridge the gap between education and the technological world in which we live.