The Need for a National Education Technology Plan (NETP)
As Liberia endeavors to revamp its education sector, there will be a need for a National Education Technology Plan (NETP) requiring the integration of technology in all schools in order to prepare the new generation of Liberians for the challenges of the 21st Century. This plan should, inter alia, require students to take technology courses from 6th grade and upwards. This will allow students who cannot afford to go to college after graduation from high school to be prepared for entry level jobs.
Sometime in December of 2009, a young lady had asked me to write her a letter of recommendation. In her hand was a copy of the newspaper carrying the advertisement of the job for which she had intended to apply. Two “CONSPICUOUS” requirements for the position being advertised were: (1). Must have a high school diploma and (2). MUST BE COMPUTER LITERATE.
As I read the requirements, I asked the young lady if she was computer literate. She told me she had never touched a computer and that she was disappointed over the possibility of not getting the job because of this reason. I knew that with a tight and somehow competitive job market, her chances of getting the job without experience or computer skills were absolutely slim. And so, as a consolation, I offered to pay her tuition at a local computer school in Monrovia which charged US$50 for introductory computer courses.
The clause “MUST BE COMPUTER LITERATE” has become mundane across the global spectrum because we are in the Information Age. However, it has become an “opportunity killer” for Liberian students who graduate from high school with desire to enter the workforce as an alternative to college. The problem is, most Liberian students do not have the opportunity of taking computer classes while in high school because only few schools (i.e. B. W. Harris School) have access to computers or something that parallels a computer education program. This lack of comprehensive computer/technology program in schools, forces high school graduates to attend computer schools, in order to obtain the skills needed to apply for jobs. And, most of them can barely afford the cost of attending those computer schools.
Education is the key to Liberia’s economic growth, prosperity, sustainability and its ability to compete in the global economy. It is the conduit to good jobs and higher earning potential for Liberians. It fosters the cross-border and cross-cultural collaboration that are desperately needed to solve the most challenging and evolving problems of our time. But modern education requires the integration of technology. And technology, as we all know is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work today, therefore, it is imperative that we leverage it to provide engaging and powerful learning experiences.
To integrate technology in our educational system, we will need to develop and implement a National Education Technology Plan (NETP) which will espouse a revolutionary transformation of the Liberian educational system. This Plan will require the integration of technology in schools and present a model for 21st Century learning driven by technology. It will discuss innovation, prompt implementation, regular evaluation, and continuous improvement. It will kindle a shift from the currently practiced 19th Century educational paradigms toward 21st Century student-centric paradigms. Our educational system will be transformed to one in which teachers play the role of facilitators and certainly not sole deliverers of information in the classroom. This will allow students to think critically and engage the learning process more enthusiastically.
To begin this initiative, we will need to establish a Technical Working Group. A group that will encompass the following: universities, representatives of primary and secondary schools, ICT professionals, educators, representatives from the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders. This team will be charged with the development of a document that will lead to a revolutionary transformation of the Liberian education system.
Currently, Liberian schools lack two main things that are required for 21st Century education: the technological infrastructure that enables this new pedagogical paradigm and teachers who have the training in and knowledge of this new approach. Most, if not all, Liberian educators lack computer or technology skills which is part of the daily lives of professionals in other sectors. The same can be said of many of the educational leaders and policymakers in schools and the higher education institutions responsible to prepare new educators to teach in schools. Therefore, professional development (pre-service and in-service) should be strongly encouraged. Professional development for teachers can also be enhanced when integrated with online communities for collaborative learning. Collaborating with educators in the global community will greatly expand the “horizons” of Liberian educators.
This NETP will be an opportunity for change and when implemented will revolutionize our education system. This change will be driven by emerging technologies and the national need to radically improve the country’s education sector. The Ministry of Education has to play a major role in identifying effective strategies to ensure the implementation of this plan. Moreover, the parents, teachers and et al, must be a part of this initiative if it is to succeed. If we cannot reform education in Liberia, then maybe we should begin thinking about revolutionizing it. Of course, this is merely my opinion!!
Until next week,