Just like in most industries, technology could play a major role in the world of education. While the idea of technology in the education brings forth the potential for efficiency and a means to be at par with the international education sector, our reality in Nigeria makes the process of implementation difficult and nearly impossible in some cases.
The recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas (Nevada, United States) from 8-12 January 2018, brought the feeling of excitement around the idea of a world that is headed towards the direction that will make it seem as though the fictional premise of the 1960s cartoon, The Jetsons, would soon become our reality; with robot maids, self driving “flying” cars and self automation in most of our everyday devices.
Watching the shows and displays of the gadgets at the CES spurred the sentiment of great things to come. But then the power outage, in the middle of this exciting week at the Las Vegas Convention Centre in the West Coast of the United States, which struck and brought about a bit of panic and shutdown of some of the events took me back to the Nigerian reality, where power outage occurs on a daily basis.
Nevertheless, technological advancement is a global reality. Regardless of the terrible state of the power and utilities infrastructure in the country, we still find ourselves trying to play catch up with the Western world in terms of technology. After all, we do observe many similar behavioural patterns in the consumption of technology e.g. growing concerns over addictions to smart phones, the use of technology as the new and normalised mode of communication, automation of processes in business operations etc.
Technology and education
Just like in most industries, technology could play a major role in the world of education, and in nearly all aspects of it: learning, teaching delivery and operations. Classroom dynamics are no longer expected to be just as simple as a teacher speaking and writing on a board, and children listening and writing in their notebooks. Ideally, there must be some infusion of technology in the classroom as demonstrated by our counterparts in the western part of the world, where teaching is delivered via smart boards and consumed via laptops or ipads.
When it comes to operations, we talk about infrastructure such as the Internet, which provides some form of a backbone for most initiatives from administration to finance and even core learning itself. Many technology companies are now seeking opportunities to develop this area of Education Technology “EdTech”.
In fact it is in itself becoming a standalone industry. There are indeed some very smart initiatives in this area, and their success rate in countries in the west is rather impressive. However, bringing this to Nigeria is quite a different ball game, because the conditions of our environment are different.
First of all, as mentioned earlier, we struggle to access basic infrastructure such as water and electricity. So the panic experienced during the CES in Las Vegas during the 2-hour blackout is actually our own reality. The lack of electricity supply makes it difficult and on a general scale, nearly impossible to implement technological initiatives in our environment.
Many public schools do not have electricity supply, not to mention generators. Even if they do have generators, they may not have access to sufficient funds for their running and maintenance. Given the relatively low budget allocation to the educational sector and the skyrocketing youth population in the country, there may not be sufficient room to make provisions for generators and diesel, when the supply of the basics such as tables, chairs and books is short.
Additionally, in terms of enlightenment, even the instructors and implementers in this sector may not have the skills necessary to deliver. So technology may not be a priority, as focus really needs to be directed to the basics. This therefore leaves the schools without much of a choice but to carry on learning through the traditional methods of textbooks, boards and instructions from teachers.
In the private sector, EdTech may seem somewhat feasible because these schools run on fees. However, it is expensive to deliver; and given other running costs that school administrators incur (e.g. electricity, water, educational materials, certification, etc.), including the additional cost of technological initiatives puts pressure on the operational effectiveness of running the schools. So there is a struggle to meet up with the demands of providing high quality education that matches international standards, which is in general the promise that private educators make to their customers (parents and students).
Another perspective to consider is the solutions offered by the EdTech companies themselves, particularly in education administration. Because many of these companies started off delivering solutions to other industries or in the education industry in other countries (developed countries), they struggle to understand the dynamics of the operations within the education industry in the Nigerian context and therefore find it difficult to adapt their solutions to meet the requirements in a cost effective manner. This then leaves a gap and may even slow down the very process that was that was supposed to be made more efficient. Some edutech organisation like Akanne EduTech Organisation has started springing out in Nigeria.
While the idea of technology in the education brings forth the potential for efficiency and a means to be at par with the international education sector, our reality in Nigeria makes the process of implementation difficult and nearly impossible in some cases. We still have a bit of a way to go in getting things right in this area.