ICT in education is gaining prominence in the Caribbean with the one device per child or family concepts. But what really is ICT in education? Is it the provision of a technology device without educational content? Or is it a technology-integrated method for teaching and learning? Suriname’s government is taking the latter definition quite seriously.
Teacher training in using and understanding technology is imperative. Training for ICT in Education appears to be focusing mainly on technology knowledge and skills, while overlooking the relationship between technology devices, pedagogy, and content. Teachers are learning about ‘cool’ stuff, but they are having difficulty applying it for the improved learning of their students.
Utilizing financing from the IDB, Suriname’s Ministry of Education and Community Development (MOECD) will implement a small “ICT in education” pilot, which will focus on:
(i) development of the legal and regulatory framework for ICT in education as none exists;
(ii) diagnostic of existing ICT in education initiatives and thereafter development of national strategy;
(iii) design of educational content, specialized teacher training, and implementation of pilots in ten schools nationally to evaluate the impact of ICT in education;
(iv) development of ICT enabling infrastructure for schools selected for pilot testing; and,
(v) assessment of methods to expand ICT in education.
In preparation for this new and exciting ICT journey, an MOECD team embarked on study tours to assess what effective technology integration strategies currently exist. One tour took the team to Maine in the United States, and it was an eye-opener. As the MOECD team forges ahead and links the ICT nuts and bolts, they have compiled their cheat-sheet of important considerations for the Surinamese context, including:
1. Training, training, and more training for teachers and school management, both in technical skills and pedagogical content.
2. Careful selection of ICT equipment, while avoiding the temptations to import wholesale international best practices. The equipment is expensive and accidents will happen in Suriname’s challenging environment.
3. Selection of relevant educational content and software that is not internet-driven.
4. Development of customized educational content that is compatible with national curricula.
5. Assess, analyze, and evaluate impacts and costs.
6. Remember the simple things while adapting to Suriname’s unique environment: find sturdy ICT equipment (e.g. can use solar panels and have long battery life) that can be used in non-air conditioned storage facilities, which may lack continuous and secure access to reliable electricity and internet connectivity.
Teaching with technology will become most effective when actively supported at the highest policy levels. MOECD’s team is leading Suriname’s ‘ICT in Education’ initiative, based on careful research and with full awareness of the local realities. Variations in the model may be developed to ensure adaptability to the cultural and economic differences among communities in Suriname. ICT in Education will play a critical role in Suriname’s social and economic development by combining intellectual power and technology to shape the country’s next generation.