Education needs a curriculum focussed on skills and ability development necessary to succeed in the information age. It also needs the creation of a knowledge economy by upscaling information and communications technologies in the classroom. These resources have the power to transform economies. Education forms the foundation of a nation’s competitiveness – the crucial component of both job creation and skills development.

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2014 – 2015, South Africa slipped from number 53 in 2013 to position 56. The country’s underperforming educational system was cited as one of the major factors in the decline of SA’s overall competitiveness. How does the country turn this challenge into an opportunity for reform?

Andre Christian, Intel’s Education Business Development Manager, believes the starting point for a transformative education initiative is a clear vision of student success. It comes down to a firm understanding of how ICT can help schools drive change; from improving student achievement and bridging equity divides, to increasing student engagement and aligning skills with workforce needs.
These targets will only help build global education transformation.

“Our education system needs to be inclusive of preparing our learners for jobs that are yet to be defined. For this to happen, we need to change the way teachers teach and learners learn,” says Christian.

Upskill today for the workplace of tomorrow
This is the digital era. Learners have to be proficient in skills beyond literacy, maths and science. Learners have to be digitally literate, critical thinkers, work in a group of diverse classmates, and be able to do presentations in front of the class.

“Government currently has plans to deploy technology solutions that feature smart content in the education sector, so we are finding that the gap is that of skills training. Intel has partnered with government to bridge the technical skills development training gap. As such, Intel plays a critical role in the use of technology for teaching and learning with respect to devices, content and solutions for education,” says Christian.

Even the introduction of the most advanced tech to support education will not amount to much, if teachers are inclined to do away with the technical approach of teaching, and return to the conventional chalkboard. Christian’s advice to gain teacher buy-in for schools to introduce a teaching eco-system that can encompass the teaching value chain. According to Christian, this is achievable and will result in a paradigm shift.

Christian also highlights the need for security measures to be in place to curb instances of break-ins and help make schools less desirable targets for criminals, cybercriminals and predators.
“The introduction of anti-theft software needs to be included as mandatory in devices to combat such theft. In addition, we need to create cyber security awareness in schools to prevent learners from accessing unwanted internet sites. Intel is working with respective government departments on both these issues,” explains Christian.

Measuring success in terms of educational transformation
When both learners and teachers are comfortable with programmes deployed, the education experience gets a significant boost; the resulting eagerness to learn creates the zeal for learners to learn through technology.

This enthusiasm for ICT tools has to be fostered from an early stage of the learners’ development. It needs to form part of the critical skills curriculum. As a learner develops through their education phases, they will grow with technology, accelerating their technical knowledge from Primary School level, through to tertiary education.

It’s simple. A transformed educational system will not only result in a closing of the skills gap in South Africa, but will lead to the creation of more jobs, grow the economy and build the country.