Sci&Tech: Liberia’s Economic Development Depends on The Rapidity with Which We Integrate Technology in Our Educational System, Now.

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Dr. Darren Wilkins

By Dr. Darren Wilkins ([email protected]| Phone: 0886703789/0777129092)

“No nation has ever been able to establish & maintain a strong government with a poor ignorant population. Much of our progress in the future will depend upon the rapidity with which we mass educate our people now.” —-Hon. Didwo W. Twe

I injected excerpts from Honorable Didwo W. Twe’s July 26, 1944 Independence Day’s speech because I strongly share his opinion. To “mass educate our people now” (to quote Hon. Twe), is the only way we can make progress in Liberia. Yet, at the time of Hon. Twe’s speech, the mass education of our people would have been done in a different way. Today, to “mass educate” the people requires the integration of modern technology/ICT and a complete pedagogical paradigm shift from what the honorable man might have envisioned.

No doubt, our educational system has the power to change lives, generate social mobility and tackle social inequality.   It can prepare the next generation for productive social and economic future, and it remains one of the most influential means that the Government has available to ensure economic productivity and competitiveness on the world stage.  Unfortunately though, Liberia has been behind many other countries in global league, and successive government attempts to bring reforms have seen a portfolio of education initiatives with little or no positive results.

In one of my Facebook posts on the morning of May 21, 2018, I insinuated that our students, specifically students studying IT/ICT/Computer Science, are not fully prepared for the modern workforce or further academic study. Ostensibly, this not their fault, but it is a reality. And, while this is a glaring problem, many Liberians have been vocal about the need for cohesive educational reforms that will include the integration of technology/ICT for Liberia to leapfrog its economic development.

The need for Government to create a better and modern education system in Liberia has never been more important.  The lack of a definitive and sustainable solution underpins the challenges that the Government faces in this area. And, as I said earlier, while there are other pressing priorities that face the leaders in the education sector, the integration of technology/ICT in our educational system would be great step in ensuring we have a world class educational system, to cope with the demands of the fast-approaching digital future.

There is no doubt that, in the midst of multiple challenges, the Ministry of Education is setting the right path for our journey to a 21st century educational system. However, while we remain optimistic, we are also cognizant that this journey will require tremendous efforts from across the education sector, the Government and our ICT sector, to ensure accelerated uptake of technology integration throughout all Liberian schools.

Note that the integration of technology in our educational system (especially our curricula) must transcend the mere provision of computing and other technology devices and internet access in schools. It must include a robust capacity building mechanism for the instructors, otherwise, the INSTRUCTORS might end up receiving INSTRUCTIONS from the INSTRUCTED. Clearly, our children live in a technology-driven world, and they are the ones generating this drive.

All of us, including educators and policy makers need to work more assiduously to better prepare the young people for the future, more importantly, for jobs that in most cases don’t even exist yet. We must make strategic moves that reflect our commitment to economic development through the championing of 21st century practice in teaching and learning. And, to paraphrase the excerpt from Honorable Twe’s Independence Day speech, the rapidity with which we mass integrate technology in our educational system will determine our progress now and in the future.

Finally, let me reiterate that we now live a world where the workplace and academia have become eclipsed by the use of modern and frontier technologies. Every job posted these days has the clause that states: “Must BE Computer Literate.” For us to achieve the much desired socio-economic development we continue to seek, we must provide digital literacy for our future leaders. We must prepare them to be ready to work and compete not just locally, but globally. We must utilize our “collective” genius and resources to provide the learning environment that will provide the skills necessary to empower our future generation tackle the challenges of changing times and changing demands.

Until next week, Carpe Diem!!

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