Namibia has set itself a target in the Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4) of becoming the most competitive economy in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region by 2017. This was the message of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister Joel Kaapanda at the Polytechnic of Namibia’s first annual Technology Day here on Wednesday. His special advisor, Mvula ya Nangolo, read the Minister’s speech on his behalf at the day being hosted under the theme “Innovative technologies for enhanced teaching, learning and assessment in Universities of Science and Technology”. “You will all agree with me that without proper investment in education, and especially higher education, this will not be possible. Knowledge and intellectual property are key to achieving national development,” Kaapanda said.
For the country to achieve Vision 2030 and become a knowledge-based society, it is vital that its citizens engage in continuous lifelong learning to acquire knowledge and remain relevant and competitive. He added that monitoring and evaluation reports of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have also shown that some progress has been made in increasing enrolments in primary, secondary and tertiary education.
However, much still needs to be done to address the deficiencies in education resources, textbooks, teachers, financing and skilled personnel in the Ministry of Education.
“Many are turning to technology to address these concerns. Digital technologies are seen to have the potential to improve learning outcomes, and mobile technologies are now seen as the dominant change drivers,” the minister noted. According to Kaapanda, the traditional teacher-centred model will not help develop the critical thinking, problem-solving and collaborative learning skills that the 21st century needs. What is indeed needed is innovation in teaching practices, and the use of contemporary teaching methods such as ‘flipped classrooms’, which take advantage of technology to improve learning.
The minister thus encouraged the institution to move beyond offering distance education in the traditional print format, and to rather move towards e-learning in order to capitalise on the multimedia and collaborative learning opportunities to make the impact that the country needs for development.
“It is expected that there will be one-billion mobile subscribers in Africa by 2015. Social networking sites have opened up new avenues for knowledge- sharing, communication and collaborative learning, thereby creating networks of learning communities in Africa,” he pointed out. It should furthermore be asked how the country can go about using social networking platforms for education and development, and at the same time create the competitive advantage it needs as a country.