by Lindsay King

EDUCATION

Children’s constitutional right to access basic education goes hand in hand with equipping them with relevant and accessible learning material–and modern technology is the biggest hero of change

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Equipping tomorrow’s leaders with the proper gear to ensure a bright future for all South Africans is serious business. In the Western Cape alone, a total of 925 schools submitted online orders for the procurement of CAPS textbooks for the upcoming 2016 school year. That is a total of 448 727 textbooks to date.

But the classroom environment itself is changing with the advent of the new age of digital and online learning platforms. Today entrepreneurs are seizing the opportunities to innovate in the digital learning space through a number of means, including e-books and online courses.

Achiever decided to investigate the textbook and educational material supply chain and spoke to Bronwyn Moses, MD of Cape Book and College Supplies (CBCS), about the current need for traditional learning materials and how the trend is shifting to include innovate new technologies.

CBCS has not only been in the business of supplying learning materials to schools, libraries and TVET Colleges for almost 20 years, but today also boasts an innovative and future-oriented range of electronic and online learning resources. Established by her husband, Reggie, in 1996, Moses says CBCS, a B-BBEE company employing people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, has grown as a business by empowering its staff through incentives and skills development over the years.

Moses explains that there is still a big demand for traditional printed textbooks which learners use for studying, but she says today’s youth is quite tech-savvy—something she says government has been slow on taking advantage of when looking at the implementation of digital format in schools. She says learners are keen on using e-books and e-learning resources but often, because of broadband connectivity and the lack of technology in most disadvantaged schools, it becomes difficult to implement across the board.

The supply of textbooks and digital learning material go hand in hand with a desire to grow South Africa’s youth, according to Moses. “Our passion is to uplift our nation through education. We pursue quality in education and have partnered with experts to develop interactive software to empower students in a fast moving digital world. We have to keep up with global trends and we have to commit ourselves to make resources accessible at very competitive prices.

“Our digital products enhance student performance. We strive for excellence and wish to support the South African Government in its mission to provide a quality educational experience to our youth. We are passionate about education and would like to contribute towards skills development programmes driven and endorsed by the Department of Basic and Higher Education,” she says.

According to Moses, technology can today be used effectively in the classroom as an educational resource and it can assist in teaching. She says it will never take the place of the teacher, but can assist with the methodology. It can further be used extensively as a tool for intervention and for effective teaching. “Learners take eagerly to this visual stimulation and it makes learning an enjoyable experience.” Technology also assists with revision and consolidation of content, she says.

“If learners have access to computers or tablets it helps them to be more organised and to do revision at their own pace. Access to the Internet also helps them to gather information and to do research. It is just such a pity that all learners in South Africa do not have access to such essentials at home. We need digital infrastructure in our schools and in our communities to make this a reality to all our learners,” she says.

Moses, who comes from an educational background and herself can boast with a BEd degree, started her career as a teacher before venturing into the private sector, points out that learning in the 21st century has been made easier through visual stimulation that can be successfully implemented in the classroom in the form of smart boards and innovative learning materials. She says both schools and Government need to create an enabling environment for learners to prosper. “The schools and communities need to be digitally inclusive in a sustainable way and accessibility for learners in schools, libraries and in communities is of utmost importance. We can use technology and innovation to redress our economic and social past,” she says.

Looking at what CBCS has achieved in terms of its innovative digital learning platforms, Moses says in conjunction with the Maths and Science experts, they have developed Maths and Science e-learning software called Ask Archie Maths and Ask Archie Science. She has experienced a great eagerness among both teachers and learners when it comes to the implementation of this product in the classroom.

She says due to financial restraints however, it has only been implemented in more affluent schools, but they are now negotiating with various provincial education departments to implement the e-learning software in disadvantaged and rural schools. She also says a lack of infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to the implementation of textbooks in digital format.

“Because Maths and Science presents itself as a yoke to our learners in South Africa, we have decided to start developing software in these two subjects to create a learner friendly environment where learners can excel. We want to demystify Maths and Science with the help of technology. We are also in the process of developing English software for additional/second language users/speakers. If we wish to empower our youth and if quality in education is our biggest concern, the need for student support and intervention is imperative at school level and at TVET colleges,” she says.

According to Moses, digital material for both schools and colleges are imperative for the development of our country in a sustainable and holistic way. “We need innovative and technologically advanced youth that can contribute to the economical inclusion and advancement in our diverse and competitive society. We also have to ensure an enabling environment for all so that our learners can later form part of a productive workforce and can compete globally. TVET colleges are providing our youth with skills that are much needed to compete in a competitive global economy.

“We need to lead with technology and innovation in the TVET sector to become the most digitally advanced and equipped country in Africa. As suppliers of textbooks and educational software we are committed to ensure quality educational resources and to ensure an enjoyable learning experience. Through technology we need to stimulate the diversified skills that is of dire need, and a requirement, to grow our economy vigorously,” she says.

Still looking at the importance of TVET colleges, Moses emphasises that these institutions provide among others an enabling environment for economic growth.

She says by investing in the development and sourcing of quality resource materials, they currently provide a digital platform through which colleges can access a variety of quality products to support skills development and training in South Africa.

“The software is user friendly and stimulates analytical and thinking skills, while complimenting class lectures as well as the textbook activities. It allows for a seamless transition in teaching styles and it reinforces content. The materials most needed in the TVET sector are for intervention and student support and we try to fill that gap,” Moses concludes.

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