e-Learning can Dramatically Shift the Way in Which Education is Delivered to Students from Developing Countries

Access to a good education is the fundamental right of every child on earth, however, in some parts of the world, this privilege appears to be far out of reach.

 Africa, as whole, has some of the world’s greatest disparities when it comes to accessing education. Child enrolment for primary school across the continent wavers between 95% (for high income countries) to 60% in the poorer Sub Saharan regions, and there are approximately 57 million children who not attend school, due to living in remote or conflict-affected areas, or caring for sick parents or orphaned children. Less than 40% of young people are enrolled in secondary school, leaving over 90 million teenagers struggling for employment in low-paid jobs. At present, only 6 percent of young people in sub-Saharan Africa are enrolled in higher education institutions, which is low in comparison to the global average of 26 percent.

 It is estimated that up to one million new primary school teachers need to be recruited in Africa in order to achieve the universal primary education development target. This represents a massive investment in training, technology and education needed by the African Government in order for children to develop the requisite literacy and numeracy skills to develop intellectually and progress positively through stages in the education system.

Major progress has been made to improve the education system and school attendance in Africa, largely as a result of abolishment of primary school fees, changing governments, and school-feeding programs.  While advances have also been made to secondary and tertiary education, and technical and vocational training, there are many obstacles to overcome before Africa transitions to mainstream digital technology, like much of the Western world already has. With the right infrastructure, more student and teacher resources, increased access to electricity, and broadband internet, the potential for a leap forward in education is high.

In many parts of Africa, traditional classroom environments are cramped, teachers are under qualified or under-resourced, and political and economic instability make it difficult for students and teachers to attend school. In addition, the costs incurred for higher education are proving to be in short supply; this applies to the world in general and not just in Africa itself.

There is a growing recognition that online study provides a more affordable and flexible option for students, allowing institutions to dramatically streamline their operations and change the way in which education is delivered and accessed. Through the use of materials such as web-based videos, audio clips, digitised notes and interactive imagery, students can now access education from anywhere. This in turn makes for a more productive learning experience, which empowers students to achieve learning outcomes and potentially retain information longer than through traditional learning.

While online learning will never completely replace formal schooling, it is a valuable tool available for those limited by the constraints of having to be somewhere at a specific time and place to attend classes. Schools and Universities will always exist as institutions of teaching, learning and research, however, digital technology can shift the way in which education is delivered and accessed, and assist students in remote and regional locations to obtain a fair education.

Across Africa, online learning is becoming more prominent for many nations. For example, in Tanzania, the THL e-learning program was established to enable secondary school students to use information technology in a more practical manner, through access to online quizzes, exams and tests. In Nairobi, Kenya, The African Virtual University was established in 1997, to deliver higher education learning programs to students through the use of digital technology. The organization uses virtual learning as a means of making education more accessible to the African continent, regardless of gender, race, religion or geographical locality.

Improving educational outcomes for students in developing countries comes down to a combination of factors, including teacher recruitment and training, classroom capacity, availability of teaching resources, and the implementation of better support systems and technology.  Online teaching, and assessment, eliminates the stress associated with cramped classrooms and lack of resources, and can vastly improve educational outcomes.

On a global scale, children are growing up in an environment where digital technology is a fundamental part of communicating and developing with others. More needs to be done to target children who currently exist outside the clutches of the education system, such as those living in developing countries. Integrating digital technology into the African education system offers huge potential for social and economic growth across the continent and can be seen as a powerful tool for developing the minds of children in these areas, so that they may make future contributions to an educated and skilled workforce.

Unfortunately, access to higher education is competing with other main concerns such lack of food, energy shortages, and illness, and unless these factors change, then not much is likely to change.