ADEA explores new opportunities for education in Africa offered by digital technology
Tunis, August 25, 2008 - Today saw the beginning of the digital summer school organized by the Global Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) and ADEA, in partnership with the government of Tunisia and with support from France’s Caisse des dépôts et consignations (CDC), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Agence française de développement (AFD). The meeting is being held from August 25 to 28, 2008, in Hammamet, Tunisia. It will explore the possibilities for using tools such as interactive whiteboards and will consider organizing teacher communities to produce digital educational resources. One of the main results expected from the summer school is to initiate the development of teaching community portals in French, in order to promote exchange of information between francophone teachers and teacher trainers, the sharing of teaching resources and the establishment of online workshops and training areas.
Participants from 20 African countries (Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Mauritius, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia) are attending the summer school, along with representatives of ADEA, the DSF, the CDC, the Education for All Network in Africa (REPTA) and the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN). Also attending are four ADEA working groups (on distance education and open learning, the teaching profession, non-formal education and higher education), specialists in the development of digital resources, universities and private-sector companies that produce educational software and content.
The digital revolution offers new prospects for education in Africa. It can facilitate access to knowledge for both teachers and learners, the production and exchange of content, self-training and continuing education, as well as production of innovative teaching resources and methods. It can also overcome geographical barriers and help to reach isolated and rural areas.
Mr. Alain Madelin, President of the Digital Solidarity Fund, reminded participants in his opening address that the goals of the DSF are to help reduce the digital divide and to build a global information society characterized by solidarity and inclusiveness.
Mr. Lazhar Bououny, Tunisian Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Technology, declared that it was Tunisia’s intention to "make the information society an opportunity for sustainable development based on principles of solidarity". He mentioned the Tunisian president’s many projects relating to information and communication technology: a computer in every classroom by 2009; priority to computer science and telecommunications in higher education; upgrading of telecommunications infrastructure; strengthening the Tunis virtual university. "The information society is the very basis of the knowledge society and the new economy ... it offers the potential for higher value added, more advanced services, greater competitiveness and better employability", he added.
ADEA Executive Secretary Mr. Ahlin Byll-Cataria, who is convinced that the digital revolution offers new opportunities, reviewed the many challenges facing education in Africa, including disparities between girls and boys, between urban and rural areas, between the rich and the poor, and between nomadic and sedentary peoples; high dropout and repetition rates; the low quality of education as measured in terms of learning outcomes and acquisition of fundamentals; the problem of the relevance of educational programs and tracks with respect to social, economic and cultural realities; and the low percentage of educated people compared to other regions of the world. He invited the participants to consider the solutions provided by digital tools, but also to consider a number of issues such as electric power and connectivity problems in isolated rural areas; the danger involved in consuming imported teaching and learning materials without adapting them to local contexts; the importance of integrating both endogenous and external knowledge into programs; adaptation of digital tools to bilingual and multilingual education; and reaching out to children who are not enrolled in the formal school system or do not complete their schooling. Emphasizing the main result expected of the summer school – i.e. to start developing teaching community portals containing digital educational resources – he recalled the five objectives set by ADEA to make these portals possible: to form networks of French-speaking teachers and teacher trainers and to formulate proposals for extending these networks; to sketch out structures for organizing French-language resource databases and to draw up a work program for developing them; to produce some examples of appropriate content and to formulate a strategy for establishing ongoing production units; to develop dissemination and support strategies for teacher self-training, inter-training and continuous training; to suggest experimental projects to follow up on the summer school at the national, regional, continental and international levels.
The summer school will end on August 28. It will be closed by Tunisia’s Minister of Education and Training.