The global COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected several sectors across the country; including basic and tertiary education.
Learners were disallowed from physically attending school and class, prompting institutions to utilise educational technology (edutech) to enable and facilitate remote learning as initially a stop gap and over time a temporary but main form of educational instruction. Prior to the national lockdown, the use of educational technology was not widespread. In fact, one could regard it as having been a want more than a need. The country’s national lockdown resulted in educators looking for other means of going through the year’s curricula. This increased the focus on digital learning solutions; including whether they would be able to produce the same or better results if teaching was administered through this platform.
But in terms of viability, various media reports indicated parental and learner scepticism. Most felt edutech could not replace physical and traditional formalised learning. Birguid’s conducted survey did, however pick up that some respondents felt it a necessary adjustment in light of further commoditisation of education through platforms such as the internet. In addition, the survey revealed that most of the respondents found it cumbersome as some schools (particularly the poor ones) did not have digital learning tools to use to teach their students and subsequently students did not have internet to access the learning materials via this platform. Support would then be required to increase access and affordability of the platform.
Going forward, key issues to be addressed for further progression of South Africa’s educational industry are generation of content that is able to match and where possible exceed in-classroom learning methods. In addition, local production of hardware to render the solutions affordable is another option that can be looked into particularly for the rural populace. Another consideration would be to further commoditise the internet to bring data costs to an absolute minimum, granting most of the populace access to educational technology solutions. The government would need to be a key player based on the aforementioned suggestions through schemes and subsidies that continue to incentivise edtech suppliers and maintain their respective business’ viability.