ICT a game changer for education

Education MEC Debbie Schafer and Via Afrika acting CEO Michael Goodman officially open the Via Afrika Tabtor Maths e-learning Centre.

Education MEC Debbie Schafer opened the doors to an e-learning centre at a Durbanville mall on Thursday June 30. It will make maths applications available to pupils, on computer tablets.

The Via Afrika Tabtor Maths eLearning Centre, at Cobble Walk Shopping Centre, is the first of what is hoped will become a countrywide franchise offering Grade R to Grade 7 pupils mobile tutoring and access to the Tabtor Maths application.

Ms Schafer said the provincial Department of Education (WCED) had identified information and communications technology (ICT) as a game changer.

“We’re focusing a lot on it over the next few years. We’ve honed in on maths particularly, and this (Via Afrika Tabtor Centre) brings together those two aspects very nicely. When children are able to learn maths on a tablet, it’s a lot more fun, and (Tabtor) has the benefits of the diagnostic aspect to it.

“This has a lot of possibilities for improving our maths which is desperately needed in our economy. There are so many jobs where maths is a prerequisite, and we are desperately needing to improve our maths results.

“I always say ‘education should be fun’, and I think this is a fun way of learning maths and providing the teacher with a really valuable tool to identify where the gaps are.”

Micheal Goodman, interim CEO of Via Afrika, an educational publishing house, said the programme would combine technology and personalised learning. Pupils would have access to a human maths tutor on a tablet.

“This programme combines the magic of technology and personalised learning with a technology assisted human tutor, who is there to help the pupil. Tabtor Maths is usable in the school space but also in the private space, and with it we will be able to disrupt the way that education is done in schools and outside of it,” he said.

Tabtor Maths was originally developed in India and America to transform mathematics learning through the use of tablets. Via Afrika partnered with Tabtor to bring the application to South Africa.

Tabtor Maths founder and CEO Raj Valli, put aside his dislike of air travel and took a 15-hour flight from New Jersey for the opening of the centre.

“My passion and the passion of my team is education and making this accessible to everyone. It is my dream to provide and make sure that the dreams of children are accomplished, by giving them access to these opportunities.”

He said the partnership with Via Afrika was about providing high quality, affordable and accessible education.

Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson was also at the launch, along with Brian Schreuder, the province’s deputy director-general for curriculum and assessment management, and Department of Basic Education (DBE) spokesman, Elijah Mhlanga.

Louis Taylor, from the DBE’s social inclusion and mass mobilisation in education directorate, said the department shared a long history of partnerships with Via Afrika.

“This initiative will assist us in making it possible for every child to do mathematics, and we welcome this. This programme is bold and progressive. It is what our country and our economy needs.”

Ms Schafer said the WCED believed e-learning played a key role in teacher development and improving maths and language, and it was ploughing R300m into e-learning this financial year and more than R1.2 billion into it over a five-year period.

“We are working to ensure that every school in the province begins to feel the benefits and transformative nature of this exciting project,” she said.

Mr Valli said access to affordable, quality education were key to a nation’s success.

“We are in the business of GDP creation, if you think about it carefully. If you don’t have an educated society you don’t have the ability for economic growth and social stability. We believe that growing a GDP starts with modern, quality education.”

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness report for 2015 to 2016 placed South Africa 138 out of 140 countries, and Mr Goodman believes elearning can help to change that dismal ranking.

“Our broader goal is education, and I agree that education is also about growing GDP. In terms of taking it further, we want to explore a franchise model. It’s a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to take it further.

“I would like to see it in more than just nice shopping malls, but in all areas of our country, and an entrepreneurial franchisee can actually do that very effectively,” he said.