By Dr. Darren Wilkins ([email protected]| Phone: 0886703789/0777129092)
In Liberia, there is an ensuing education summit intended to identify ways to improve the nation’s education system. The summit is expected to bring together practitioners, policymakers, stakeholders and experts from across education and other areas, to explore the challenges faced by the Government in its efforts to improve to the educational system of Liberia.
This Summit is welcomed and much needed for the achievement of our economic development goals. While we understand that the traditional problems faced by the Education Sector of Liberia will be paramount during the discourse, it is our hope that stakeholders take into consideration the realities of the world which have become digital, and dwell on the topic of digital technology integration in our educational system.
No doubt, our educational system has the power to change lives, to generate social mobility and tackle social inequality. It can prepare the next generation for productive social and economic futures, and it remains one of the most influential means that the Government has available to in ensuring economic productivity and competitiveness on the world stage. However, increasingly, Liberia has been behind many other countries in global league tables and successive government attempts to bring reforms have seen a portfolio of education initiatives with little or no positive results.
In my Facebook posting on the morning of May 21, 2018, I insinuated that our students, specifically students studying IT/ICT/Computer Science disciples, are not prepared for the modern workforce or further academic study. And, while this is a glaring problem, many Liberians have been vocal about the need for cohesive educational reforms for Liberia to leapfrog economic development.
It is clear that thriving in today’s world and even beyond, computational thinking has to be a fundamental part of the way people understand the world. Computational thinking is a way of solving problems and designing solutions. It involves algorithms, abstract models, data analysis, and extracting key information and dealing with complex systems. In a world where access to information is almost unlimited, students will need to know how to combine information step by step and learn from their digital mistakes. The pace of change is an attractive proposition in itself for children. However, it is a skill that must be developed from an early age and one that enables an individual to leverage computer technology for his/her advantage.
The pressure on Government to create a better and modern education system in Liberia has never been more important. The lack of a single answer probably underpins the challenges that the Government faces. Hence, the importance of this summit. And, as I said earlier, while there are other pressing priorities that face the leaders in the education sector, the inclusion of digital technology 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.
I strongly believe that this summit will set the right path for our journey to a 21st century educational system. However, while we remain optimistic, we also cognizant that this journey will require tremendous effort from across the education sector, the government and our ICT sector to ensure accelerated uptake of digital technology throughout all Liberian schools.
Note that the integration of digital technology in our educational system must transcend the mere provision of devices and preparing students for careers in computer programming. With the exponential rate of technology development, it is almost impossible to comprehend how different our lives will be in the next two decades. There is no denying that the world our children live in is technology-driven, and that young people are indeed generating this drive. However, it is widely acknowledged by both educators and policy makers that we need to better prepare young people for the future, for jobs that in most cases don’t even exist yet. It is also generally agreed that computer technology will be increasingly pervasive, making computational thinking skills critical for the future success of all of our children.
The change to the curriculum (digital technology integration) I am suggesting in this write-up could be a strategic move that reflects the Government’s commitment to economic development through the championing of 21st century practice in teaching and learning. This move will ensure we have an educational system that prepares young people for a future where digital fluency will be critical for success.
The ICT sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world with an ongoing demand for skilled graduates. It is our hope that by the end of the Summit the Ministry of Education would see the necessity in establishing committee or team that will look into the integration of digital technologies in our schools’ curriculum/la. This committee or team will or should work in partnership with the ICT sector and other stakeholders including USAID, the World Bank, et al, to emerge with what could be a national technology integration policy or plan.
Finally, we now live a world that is characterized by the use of modern and frontier technologies in the workplace. 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, and provide the needed capacity for our people. 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!!