After years of work, the Ministry of Education and Sports has decided to drop the idea of drafting an information and communications technology (ICT) education policy.
The policy on ICT in education has reached the consultation stage. The ministry was expected to present the draft to interested groups and stakeholders for evaluation before sending it to the cabinet.
Dr. Jane Egau Okou, the Director for Higher, Technical, Vocational Education and Training at the education ministry, says that the ministry chose to rely on the current National ICT strategy rather than develop a sector-specific policy.
She says that the new development was suggested in their most recent sessions, with some officials and experts observing that developing another policy would be a duplication of the existing frameworks.
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, which forced the closure of classrooms, actors in the education sector—mostly educational institutions—began relying on digital tools to ensure continued learning.
The majority of the learning institutions used digital solutions to fill the void. To keep students linked to their teachers throughout the lockdown, schools used a variety of virtual platforms, digital classrooms, and resources, including Zoom, WhatsApp, broadcast media, Microsoft Teams, and others.
However, as the nation expands the adoption of technology to enhance learning, several important concerns need redress to harmonize the application of ICT. These included digital pedagogy for teachers, quality assurance mechanisms for content, access to information, and the safety of miners while using digital.
However, according to Dr Egau, after realizing that the aforementioned issues could be handled without a new policy, “individuals with fresh thinking” decided to develop guidelines and regulations for the education sector using the current National ICT policy.
Uganda developed its initial ICT national policy in 2003. The policy framework document recognized that Uganda would need to embrace the goal of “lifelong education for all” and address literacy improvement and human resource capacity-building.
The National Policy 2014 further recommended reviewing curricula at all levels to pedagogically integrate ICTs into the teaching and learning process and improving the level of investment in educational ICT equipment, software, and broadband connectivity of primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions, among a few other items.
Several officials at the education ministry who preferred not to be named said that there is a high chance that the idea of dropping the sectoral policy in preference to the national policy could have been imported.
“There is a possibility that this was an imported idea.” I mean, someone might have been inspired by how other countries are doing it. But, I think there is a need to purely localize it if it is to work for us, “the official noted.
Indeed, the idea of drawing strategies and regulations from the national ICT policy is already in effect in many countries, including Kenya. Information obtained from a World Bank study indicates that Kenya is one of the countries with a sophisticated ICT in Education Strategy and Implementation Plan.
It is reported that Kenya embedded the said plan in the national ICT policy that was developed through a consultative process with stakeholders. The plan has cost estimates, timelines with measurable outcomes, and specified lead agencies.
The need for ICT in education policy intensified early this year when a section of schools, in urban areas, permitted their students to use smartphones to research different topics as required by the abridged curriculum for lower secondary.
The move was halted by the State Minister for Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo, who stated that the use of smartphones by students in the classroom would be affected only after the government develops a policy to guide students’ use of ICT devices.
“We want to holistically address this challenge within the context of a larger framework that will facilitate the development of supporting regulations on the use of mobile phones, among other ICT tools in schools.” “We want to fully adopt the use of ICT in the entire education system in a manner that is age-appropriate, beneficial, and safe for the learner, teacher, and the school environment,” Muyingo noted.
Although the education ministry is fast-tracking the use of ICT in education, several policymakers and educationists have cautioned against jumping on the digital learning tide before setting up the required infrastructure.