This September, the government of Tanzania in conjunction with the African Development Bank (AfDB) launched the Technical Vocational Education and Teacher Education (TVET-TE) project in order to increase access to and the quality of technical and vocational education and training (AfDB, Government of Tanzania Launch U.S. $57 Million in Support to Technical Vocational Education and Training Project
). Valued at 57 million dollars, the program will improve facilities at 13 institutions and will support increased use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at 53 schools across the country.
The project is part of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Development Programme (TVETDP) which was launched in 2013. While the initiative is intended to increase the number of skilled workers, the article admits that the project’s impact may be constrained due to the lack of secondary school math and science teachers in the country. As many technical and vocational training programs require a solid foundation in the sciences, the lack of teachers prepared to provide students with this foundation may impede TVET-TE’s efficacy.
TETEA understands the need to improve tertiary education (both higher and technical and vocational), but is concerned that focusing on these sectors before resolving problems at the secondary and primary school levels is problematic. The shortage of math and science teachers, for instance, has been a concern of the government’s for over a decade and yet the problem persists. Working to improve the number of trained teachers as well as the quality of instruction (in particular focusing on building teachers’ content area knowledge and understanding of teaching and evaluation methods, developing modern curricula and providing greater access to educational resources) at the pre-tertiary levels is necessary in order to ensure that individuals are ready for tertiary programs.
Last month, the DailyNews
reported that the Prime Minister of Tanzania has announced government plans to create a digital library which would contain all student textbooks and other paper-based materials (for the article, see: http://www.dailynews.co.tz/index.php/local-news/22592-pm-educational-materials-to-go-digital
). It is unclear when these materials will be publicly available or even if work has begun on the project, though it will probably be several years before such a program would be fully operationally.
As computers, tablets, and smart phones become more widespread, a digital library could become very useful. Students would be able to access their course materials without having to pay for them. Also, having access to a complete library would allow students to view materials that otherwise would have been unavailable due to the scarcity of textbooks at many schools and the phasing out of old textbooks.
While the project has many potential benefits, there are several issues that should be addressed. First, large segments of the population do not have access to the resources necessary for the effective use of a digital library. Many schools do not have access to the technological aids (computers, smart phones, internet connections) required to access a digital repository; some of these schools do not even have electricity. Such schools tend to serve students who are poorer and who are more likely to be located in rural areas; these students tend not to have access to the requisite technological aids, either. If nothing is done to improve access to such aids, a digital library might increase the educational divide between the wealthy and the poor.
TETEA maintains that technology can be beneficial and that a resource such as a digital library would beneficial; this belief led us to develop our own resource library at maktaba.tetea.org
, where Tanzanian students and teachers can obtain study guides and past national examinations. That said, it is important that one remains cognizant of the potential pitfalls of such initiatives and work to mitigate any negative consequences. TETEA, for example, operates a rural library which contains all of the materials available through the online resource library, providing access to students who are unable to use the internet.