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Technology in education: a conversation between ministers 

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Technology in education: a conversation between ministers 

Education ministers from Kenya and Ghana gather at the seventh Global Skills & Education Conference in Dubai to discuss the role of technology in education across the continent.

As technology begins to define the very fabric of society and slowly impacts across all sectors, many believe the tool can be used to increase and enhance education.

The private sector needs no encouragement in this regard with tech-enabled education solutions being rolled out across the continent.

Ten African startups, ranging from SMS learning in Kenya to education multimedia in Tanzania, were among 30 global finalists competing for the conference organiser Varkey Foundation’s Next Billion Ed-Tech prize here in Dubai.

Yet what of the public sector? What can role can technology and private-led solutions play within the goverment?

Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Education, argues technology has a big part to play.

Her ministry recently unveiled the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS) portal which acts as a digital space through which students, teachers and institutions can access learning material.

This, she argued, was important for ensuring that education professionals in particular are accessing the right material to teach to their students.

“They can’t teach what they don’t know,” she said.

Partnerships between the ministry and the private sector which can leverage on technology are equally important for extending government services, with Kenya’s government working closely with regional players like Safaricom.

Talking about the engagement between the public and private sectors, Mohamed pointed out that online tutors provided by companies such as Teach Me Now are useful in helping to reach students in remote areas of Kenya.

“You have to strike a balance,” she said. “Where you have teachers in parts of the country where the teacher student ratio is so low; you need technology to support learning.”

Ghana’s Minister of Education, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, retorted slightly saying he was “not convinced” about the quality assurance of independent education providers.

As a government actor himself, Prempeh argued for public sector capability but admitted solutions thereof frequently hit barriers during the scaling phase.

“For governments to scale we need resources,” he said. “That is why it’s difficult to scale.”

Ghana’s intelligence box (iBox) is a homegrown technology which delivers digital curriculum-specific educational content to the country’s school children.

Yet, he said, his government has difficulty in scaling.

On this note both ministers agreed that transforming education can only be achieved by the highest level of political engagement.

Mohamed revealed that education in Kenya receives 27% of the national budget, and that only through “political will” and “leadership” can real change take place.

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Written by Tom Collins

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