Bring the Students Back: ICTs, Math and Science Education in African Secondary Schools
Africa is yet to become a major player in the technological and scientific revolution that has swept the world over the last five decades. One of the main reasons for this state of affairs is the poor teaching of mathematics and science in African secondary schools which deprives the continent of a critical mass of graduates with mathematical and scientific knowledge, skills and competencies that are needed to compete at the global level.
A growing body of research on the continent has now identified the key factors affecting the teaching of mathematics and science in secondary schools in Africa and these are: lack of basic infrastructure such as laboratory and equipment, lack of teachers in quantity and quality (teacher's poor content and pedagogical knowledge), lack of motivation and interest by the majority of students who view the subjects as too difficult, poor mastery of the language of instruction and the quasi inexistence of teaching and learning materials (Makgato, 2007; Georgewill, 2006; Sing, Granville & Dika, 2010).
The most prominent factors among the ones listed in explaining this situation are the fact that most of the mathematics and science teachers still use the traditional ‘talk and chalk’ method when teaching; and coupled with this there is an abysmal dearth of textbooks to support teaching and learning. Moreover, these two factors have combined to determine the pedagogy used in the classroom as the lack of resources and facilities such as textbooks, laboratories, chemicals, tools and equipment, teaching aids tends to favor a teacher-centered approach. It is a known fact that when these facilities and resources are available, better teaching and learning occurs; students are more engaged in practical activities through experimentation, problem-solving, and interacting with one another in practical hands-on-activities. The motivation to study sciences and math therefore grows as students’ curiosity, imagination and critical thinking are enhanced.
Many initiatives have sprung at the regional level to address this situation and have by and large consisted of remedying the poor content and pedagogical knowledge of secondary education mathematics and science teachers. Among the most recognizable ones are the Japanese-supported Strengthening of Math and Science Education in Africa (SMASE) which has introduced the Activities, Students, Experiments and Improvisation (ASEI) pedagogy and the Female Education in Mathematics and Science Education in Africa (FEMSA) launched by FAWE to develop girl-friendly learning environments for these subjects. However, both initiatives are donor-driven and regional in orientation. Therefore, the issue of sustainability should be of concern. For all intents and purposes, FEMSA, for instance, is now defunct as donor funding has dried out.
Very little has been done to address the poor teaching through indigenous policies at the national level using the many facilities afforded by ICTs to improve math and science teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge.