When a few months ago the Osun state government made the startling announcement that it was introducing tablets into Osun State Public school, the news was greeted with joy in certain circles especially the Nigerian tech community. Finally, here was a governor who could see the good that could come from the marriage of tech and education. It was seen as a laudable idea which also made financial sense. The state claims a savings of a whooping N8.4Billion would come out of implementing the project. Imagine the good that would do to other sectors or even within the same sector in the state.
The tablets have been described as “revolutionary” and “breakthrough”. According to the Opon Imo website, the virtual classroom includes 17 subjects for senior secondary 1, 2 & 3 which, culminates into a total of 51 video tutorials. There are 823 chapters in total with about 900 minutes (or 15 hours) of audio voiceovers and an average of 16 chapters per course.
There is also an integrated Test Zone of Mock Exam tests for 14 core subjects in WASSCE comprising of 10 years of past questions with an average of 500 questions each and approximately 1800 images. There are Practice tests for 46 courses with approximately 1220 chapters containing approximately 29,000 questions referencing approximately 825 images.
In addition, the tablets contain other extra-curricular subjects including Sexuality Education, Entrepreneurship, Civic and Computer Education, Dictionary, Bible, Yoruba History and Traditional Religion.
Interestingly, the project is not supposed to be standalone. The website states that it is an integrated project that should run with the following:
- OSCHOOL project, where around 100 model schools are being built.
- OMEAL project, free daily lunch meal for 254,000 elementary year 1 – 4 kids.
- OUNIFORM project, standardisation of school uniform for 750,000 students.
- A centre of excellence pedagogical institute for teacher capacity development.
- Building of 9 Vocational Education Centre for Skills development.
In fact, everything looks good on paper.
Having been part of an organization that promotes revolutionary trends in education, I was fascinated by the project. Imagine the knowledge that is being put into the hands of each of these students. Finally, there would be no complaints from students of not having textbooks for certain subjects.
Yet, one thing kept bugging my mind. In my experience over the years, I have discovered the importance of the buy in of teachers in the success of any school project. In fact, I dare say that any school project that does not integrate the office of teachers is headed for failure. For this reason, I was particularly concerned about the role of teachers in the Opon imo project. I therefore headed off to the website to see what role teachers would play in the project. Would they receive additional training in teaching methodology to help them use the tablets?
In answer to the question: will there be training for teachers and students? The website has this to say:
Yes; a cultural and educational engagement program is being put in place to assess the acceptance of the Students and Teachers of the Tool; the acceptance and ease of use by the student, the relief and hope this brings to the parents and more so the motivation it gives to the teachers is an encouraging indicator that this Tablet of Knowledge is here to stay
Err…maybe you noted, like me, that the question was not really answered. The question was not: will acceptance by teachers and students be assessed? It was, is there training available for teachers and students?
Perhaps the question was not answered because there really is no training required for teachers and students to use the tablets. Perhaps because the only thing Opon imo actually does is to put an e-library in the hands of the students, certainly equivalent to handing each student the textbooks that they need for the target classes.
So in what way is this ‘breakthrough’ and ‘revolutionary’?
Opon imo does not teach students. In fact, in the schools where a test run is being carried out only the class teachers have the tablets. Let me explain this: let’s say in School A, the Senior Secondary School year 1 has five arms. That means that five teachers get the tablets. But, since the tablet is equipped with 17 subjects, they ideally should have about 17 subject teachers who should each be given a tablet. This is not the case. Now in some instances, the class teachers may not be a subject teacher for that class which means that there always be a deficit of teachers who do not have the tablets and so are not physically equipped to use the tablets in the class. Yet, the use of the tablets is teacher dependent within the classroom. It takes a teacher who has planned for the lesson and is prepared to present it objectively to make use of the tablets.
The only advantage provided by the tablets is that the students can prepare in advance for the lesson if they choose to and can follow in with the teachers in the class if they are able to.
Also, the students will not be able to say “I didn’t do my homework because I don’t have the textbook”… but they can come up with other excuses if they please.
Contrary to what is being touted in some quarters, paper is not eliminated in the classroom. Students still take down notes and write homework in ink. Teachers still mark and record scores manually.
In the same vein, schools lacking basic infrastructure still lack basic infrastructure. Overpopulation is still an issue with some schools having up to 70 students in a classroom. There are no virtual laboratories integrated into the tablet so students cannot conduct virtual science experiments.
Would you therefore not agree that this like putting the proverbial cart before the horse? Which really should come first: provision of basic requirements to a proper learning environment and teacher training and development or the provision of tablets?
The “disconnect” between standard of classrooms, teachers and use of tablets right now can be best imagined.
Having considered all, the revolution may be yet to come. Change is relative and dependent on the attitude of the students themselves towards learning. A student who wants to learn will learn. Students who are disadvantaged by a lack of access to books will get access. That Opon imo will make students who ordinarily have no interest in learning to develop an interest will be dwelling in the realm of conjecture for now.
Opon imo may well be a great step in the general direction of progress. For it to achieve the fullest potentials though, it is necessary for the state government to revisit the bigger issues that affect education in the state including but not limited to inadequate classrooms, lack of laboratories and technical facilities, and teacher training and development.
It may also be necessary to revisit the issue of who should get the tablets if the state is to get the best results from its use. Would it not be better and more forward looking, if they really want to create a new generation of tech savvy students to introduce these tablets of knowledge in primary schools as is being done in Kenya for instance?
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @Anabagail
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