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Nov

ICT for education: Leapfrogging the quality of education in Haiti

Posteado por Stijn van der Krogt - 0 Coments

How we did it in earlier years

This year I am advising the Ministry of Education in Haiti on its ICT strategy and implementation plan on behalf of the Inter American Development Bank. A great opportunity as the world has changed since the last time I worked on ICT strategies. To formulate the ICT strategy for education I looked back to the strategies I advised on in Zambia and Bolivia before 2010. These strategies focused primarily on setting up Telecentres in schools, basic ICT skills training, digitization of the curriculum and sometimes training of teachers in the development of education materials with Power point. In these cases the strategy focused much less on how ICT could actually address challenges and enhances the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom… Let us see how we are doing it in Haiti.

The challenges in Haiti

First some positive aspects of education in Haiti. Education is highly valued by parents who will do anything to get their children to school. School directors and teachers are often very dedicated and try to educate their pupils as best as they can. Finally, girls and boys equally participate in education.

Then some of the challenges. Primary school enrollment in Haiti is around 80% compared to an average of 95% in the region. With high drop-out rates, the actual school completion rate much lower. Net enrollment in secondary education is only 25% way below the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. Access is first of all limited as a result of a lack of schools, with one third of the schools destroyed during the earthquake in 2010. Education costs are very high, particularly for private schools that make up far the largest part of the education sector. With 90% of the population living in poverty, most parents struggle to pay for school fees and school materials.

In terms of quality, one of the major problems is that only one third of teachers are qualified. Furthermore, poor facilities affect quality: many schools are housed in small buildings where large numbers of pupils are taught together in classrooms divided only by a cart-board division. As a result, most pupils fail to reach a basic education level. Studies show that most pupils have not reached a basic reading and writing level in the 3th grade in both French and Creole.

ICT will not be the panacea for all systemic problems of access and internal efficiency, but can help address a number of issues related to the limited number of trained teachers and the low quality of teaching and learning. 

Towards active learning

Different from above, the Government and civil society partners in Haiti are very aware that we first need to think about how to enhance teaching and learning processes even before discussing ICT. In Haiti it is chosen to move away from traditional teacher-centered learning and introduce learner-based methods where the children actively participate in lessons (active learning) and learn how to solve problems (problem-based learning). These methods are to assist the pupils to improve their analytical skills and competences to prepare them better for integration in the future labor market.

Given the current circumstances in Haiti this is off course a real challenge which cannot be achieved over night. But two innovative experiences are paving the way for new teaching methods. Since 2007, Save the Children developed a highly structured training method that guides in-service teachers in a step by step approach towards active teaching and learning. The ‘reading is the future’ approach with particular ways to welcome the students in the class, active question and answer methods, positive feedback, specific attention to individual children, etc. In collaboration with USAID the program has now trained over 900 teachers in 300 schools and has effectively changed the attitude of teachers and the atmosphere in the classroom.

At the same time the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the French Academy of Sciences introduced a teacher-training program in training centers nationwide, using role plays and videos of real-case teaching practices in the classroom. On the basis of these practices, a first group of 800 trainers and teachers analyze their current teaching processes over a two-year period, and together search for more active learning methods.

Developing relevant content

Next condition to make effective use of ICT is to provide educational content that supports active learning. There are plenty good open education resources that can be used as a basis. A good example is the content provided by French-African Sankore.org which provides interactive digital content for most subjects. Yet content still needs to be adjusted to the countries curriculum and contextualized. Therefore combined teams of international and local partners in Haiti have started to develop interactive learning materials for reading and writing in French and Creole adapted to the local context.

The finishing touch: ICT in the mix

Finally, ICT can be brought into the mix. A number of very interesting ICT projects have started that support teacher training and active learning in the class room.

The International Rescue Committee is experimenting with a simple solution they integrated in the Save the Children teacher training program. They make use of videos of real live classroom situations made with and by teachers. The videos are stored on a Smartphone and presented with a pico projector. The videos are now effectively used to stimulate peer-to-peer learning around active learning methods among teachers of 40 schools.

To bring ICT in the classroom, the Ministry of Education and US-based EDC make use of solar-powered educational radios. This is particularly a relevant option for schools without electricity (Well thought, as only 20% of all Haitian schools can count on electricity). Interactive educational radio has a long-standing experience with active learning approaches. For example, pupils are asked to sing along or have to answer questions after listening to a story. The radio programs are aired through local radio stations used at set hours in the classroom and parents can listen in from their homes. As part of a new program to start in 2014 in 100 schools, radios are equipped with USB-sticks allowing teachers to make use of the programs at any moment of the day.

In schools with electricity, the Ministry is working on another innovative approach. With support of the French government and NGO Haiti Futur, they started in 2010 with a project using ‘interactive white boards’ to support active learning in 35 schools. Different from the expensive white boards we know, the projectors are used with built in software to support interactive projection on a wall in the classroom. This way pupils can actively participate in solving learning, math or science problems in front of the classroom. It is now thought to bring in a solar energy component to also allow schools without electricity to participate in this program.  

Since 2010, NGO Inveneo has set up small cyber centers in 40 schools and trained teachers and students in basic ICT skills.  In a new phase, Inveneo will introduce tablets for pupils to access open education resources and interactive content developed by the countries’ leading publisher Maison Deschamps.

The Ministry and partner organizations are now preparing a large-scale plan that integrates the most promising experiences with active learning methods and ICT. For example, in schools with some access to electricity, the interactive radio program will be combined with the introduction of laptops for teachers, enabling them to prepare or upload teacher manuals or prepare additional paper-based learning materials. To enhance the use of interactive white boards, a small number of tablets in the classroom will be used to support group work in the classroom. This way the teachers can promote active and more differentiated learning among groups of pupils.

We hope some of these innovations can leapfrog primary education in Haiti into the 21e century, or, at least to motivate teachers to teach better and pupils to learn more. The vision, ideas and tools are there! Now up to Haiti: Ayiti en pil!






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