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Primary schools' laptops are potent tools for effective teaching, learning

COMMENTARY
By Jacob Kaimenyi | August 4th 2013

By Jacob Kaimenyi

The debate about Government’s plans to introduce laptops as a teaching and learning tool in the public primary school system is robust; and ensures the policy is not only relevant but is on-point and service delivery is effective and efficient. Critics of the programme have reduced this noble project to “delivery of toys to school children”. Nothing can be further from the truth. Contrary to this viewpoint, the laptop project is a potentially potent tool for effective teaching and learning.  The laptop project should be seen in the context of Government policy to integrate Information Communication and Technology (ICT) in curriculum delivery in our schools.

ICT integration in education means seamless incorporation of information and communication technologies to support and enhance the attainment of curriculum objectives, enhance the appropriate competencies including skills, knowledge, attitudes and values, and to manage education effectively and efficiently at all levels.

The great question facing modern Governments is: How does our education equip citizens to compete on the global arena? Tech-driven competitiveness requires an educational system that is strongly oriented towards producing citizens who are comfortable and productive in a hi-tech world. This is the major principle underlying the laptop project in schools. The intention is to prepare an entire generation of world-beating scholars, innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders who will take Kenya beyond Vision 2030. The aim is to transform Kenya in a dramatic, positive and lasting way. It must lay a new platform for progress.

I urge Kenyans to see the introduction of the laptop in our schools from the foregoing perspective: a tool that will help to transform education and address challenges of access, quality, relevance and equity faced by the education system. The criticisms this project faces and which offer some alternative priorities, is however, a big challenge. I agree there are other priorities. But I disagree that they override the need to invest in our country’s future. Poverty is a legitimate set-back, but the laptop project which will empower our people to be competitive globally for decades to come, is one of the most radical ways of ensuring that it is driven off our borders in the coming years.

I wish to shed light on a number of misconceptions that have attended the preparation for implementing the project in our schools early next year. In our first 100 days in office, we have put in place measures that will enable the government provide laptops to all Class One children in public primary schools in three phases beginning next year. The Government has already set aside Sh15 billion to ensure that at least 12,000 primary schools are connected to the national electricity power grid. Another Sh15.37 billion is dedicated to the transformation of education by digitising school curricula, training teachers and providing the laptops.

The laptop programme has been considered in the context of a total structural overhaul. What will the laptops do in the short term? They will boost pupil-driven learning and largely free teachers to concentrate on coaching and learner support. The immediate impact of this programme is to make delivery of education services more effective and empower the teacher and pupil. There will also be computer laboratories in schools to support the system.

In connecting schools to the national electricity grid, we will immediately avail opportunities for hundreds of homes in the schools’ vicinity to have electricity supply. It means local communities will have power for domestic consumption and to run of small-scale businesses. It is clear that the socio-economic benefits of the Laptop Project go beyond the classroom in the first instance, and offer a real opportunity for integrated transformation of our people. I appeal to all Kenyans of good will to support this wonderful initiative.


 

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