1T. Terver Udu, PhD
1Department of English & Literary Studies, College of Education, Katsina-Ala
2Department of Curriculum, College of Education, Katsina-Ala.
This article considers Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as an imperative for the attainment of quality secondary education in Nigeria. It argues that secondary education constitutes the foundation of western education and if it is supported with ICT, it will prepare the learner for holistic education. ICT also makes education accessible and increases its quality. The article identifies and discusses some of the problems facing effective secondary education to include high ICT illiteracy rates, poor English language competence, attitude of government, and poor supply of amenities among others. It suggests that Government should initiate ways of fostering the ICT literacy skills of teachers by sponsoring them to workshops and short term programmes while head teachers on their part should ensure that computer studies are introduced right at the primary school level. It also suggests that government should give teachers at the primary and secondary levels better and improved work conditions to improve the quality of education offered at these levels.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has touched human life in such a robust way that it is next to the natural elements such as the sun, air, rainfall. ICT is commonly shared by nations and communities of the world. The ubiquity of ICT is such that most people prefer to say, we are in a ‘computer age’ or ‘global village’ etc.
Though people differ in the way they explain this concept, we shall soon see that there are opinions on the definition of ICT that are reasonably connected. According to United States Access Board (2011), ICT refers to any information technology, equipment, or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment for which the principal function is the creation, conversion, duplication, automatic acquisition, storage, analysis, evaluation, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data or information.
An often quoted authoritative definition of ICT is that by UNESCO (2007)
The term “information and communication technologies” (ICT) refers to forms of technology that are used to transmit, process, store, create, display, share or exchange information by electronic means. This broad definition of ICT includes such technologies as radio, television, video, DVD, telephone (both fixed line and mobile phones), satellite systems, and computer and network hardware and software, as well as the equipment and services associated with these technologies, such as videoconferencing, e-mail and blogs.
In the two definitions above, we see that examples of ICT are electronic inventions, telecommunications products such as cell phones (Global Systems for Mobile Communication), computers and ancillary equipment such as i-pads, i-pods, video conferencing, the internet, software, information kiosks and transaction machines, videos, IT services, and multifunction office machines which copy, scan, and fax documents. In fact, it is the ubiquity of ICT that most people prefer to say, we are in a ‘computer age’ or ‘global village’ etc. This is because we are in an age that is characterized by extensive development and application of computer technology which has considerably helped man to solve the problems he encounters daily. In homes, offices, venues of social and corporate meetings, we see people making use of ICT equipment such as digital wrist watches, cell phones, and digital cameras to record and videotape the proceedings. Others are i-pads, i-pods (also known as tablet computers). I-pads are small, flat computers with touch screens. They have same features as smartphones that use the same operating system as the Apple iPhone, and use very similar hardwares suitable for browsing the web. I-pads are used to send and receive mails electronically, chat with friends across the globe; videotape an activity, take still pictures, and watch the world via satellite, etc.
Imperatives of ICT
In an attempt to answer this question, more questions can be generated. Is there any activity in our present life that one engages in without making use of ICT? ICT has a place in the work place, home, school, and public places. In some offices and venues earmarked for government and corporate functions, guests are usually scanned with digital scanners to ascertain whether or not they are carrying with them dangerous weapons like bombs, riffles and other unauthorized objects. Students seeking admission into schools, colleges and universities are required to complete forms on-line. In a similar way, today, applicants applying for jobs are required to visit the web to download and complete forms on-line. Most books that are out of circulation have been uploaded on the internet and can only be accessed when one browses the net.
With the above background, one can see that ICT is truly an imperative. It is the livewire of the present human society. It is in line with this that the Government of Nigeria (FRN, 2012) has taken a position on the status of ICT in Nigerian secondary education. It has therefore, stated in its policy document that:
In recognition of (the) prominent role of Information and Communication Technology in advancing knowledge and skills necessary for effective functioning in the modern world there is (the) urgent need to integrate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into education in Nigeria. (FRN, p.13.
The same policy document states: “Government shall provide necessary infrastructure and training for the integration of ICT in the school system…” (p.18)
As already said, an imperative is something that is essential to the extent that you cannot do without. In other words, there is no option to ICT.
The Computer as the backbone of ICT
The computer can be considered the backbone of ICT in many ways. Computers are not just desktops and laptops and machines such as automated teller machines commonly used in banks, hotels and shopping malls. Computers are everywhere around you and could be buried in personal effects such as wrist watches, cell phones, blood group monitors, microwave ovens, television sets, and videocassette recorders (VCRs) or digital video disc (DVD) players, and cars. We need not go into the history of how a computer was invented for want of time and space but a few historical facts can still help us to understand better how this important ICT tool works. A French mathematician, Blaise Pascal and other inventors began making machines that could add and subtract numbers as far back as the 1600s. Efforts to improve on the computer went on steadily until in the 1970s when Personal computers (PCs) (the type you commonly see around you) were invented. Since its debut, the computer holds a central place in human activity including communication. Computers are used in banks to send and receive money throughout the world. Computers are used to detect crime and carry out intelligent investigations. Computers are an important aid to qualitative research, teaching and learning. They help the teacher to keep abreast of trends in his field of endeavour. They promote work efficiency in the workplace. They help man in complex calculations and in storing information for future use. They reduce human labour and make work relatively easier.
One will notice that much has been said about the computer. The computer is the commonest and most needed equipment for classroom and school use. Literacy in computer use is not negotiable both on the part of students and teachers.
The Importance and Place of ICT in Quality Secondary Education
UNESCO (2007) has identified two major benefits of having an ICT-based education:
ICT Makes education more accessible.
Using ICT can make education increasingly free of the constraint of distance,
and make education easier and cheaper to access.
ICT Improves the quality of education
Use of ICT can change the ways we teach and learn – to bring about better learning outcomes. It will help teachers to vary their instructional strategies to meet the needs of the students.
Furthermore, ICT makes learning real and enjoyable.
ICT helps students to improve on their language and communication skills. On the computer, you have language resources such as spell checker, dictionaries of various type (which specify pronunciation patterns, word origin), vocabulary development packages etc.
ICT increases students’ participation in learning by providing them the desired motivation to continue learning even when the teacher is not present.
ICT expands the frontiers of knowledge by making learning accessible to all peoples of the world regardless of what region, race or country they come from.
ICT enhances teacher preparation and research.
ICT prepares learners for the world of work and enhances the acquisition of skills relevant for such work.
ICT makes the development of teaching and learning materials easy and affordable.
It encourages both individualized learning as well as group work.
ICT enhances work proficiency, speed and accuracy.
It determines the pace of development by being a major contributor to the economy of nations.
ICT is skill-based.
It enhances evaluation of teaching.
It makes quick and easy dissemination of information across the globe possible.
Problems Confronting ICT Education in Secondary Schools in Nigeria
- Government Attitude to Education matters. On the whole, ICT education was introduced in Nigeria as late as 1987 (Jegede & Owolabi, 2003). Even so, implementation in schools did not take place simultaneously. Up till now, there are many schools in Nigeria where computer studies are yet to commence on account of lack of teachers or lack of equipment for mounting the programme.
- Low Computer Literacy Levels among Teachers and students. Kpai, Joe-Kinanee, &Ekeleme (2012) found that the level of computer literacy amongst trainee teachers in Rivers State University of Education is generally low, especially among fresh students. The male trainee teachers are more proficient at skills and literacy in ICT than their female counterparts. Similarly, Agbowuro (2009) found that both teachers and students in schools in Nigeria lack modern ICT skills to compete with their counterparts in other parts of the globe. Udu (2013) found that some schools in Benue State are yet to start lessons in computer studies. There are also problems of poor ICT equipment and poor supply of electricity to schools. Many students till date are unable to use basic computer applications etc. Insufficient ICT Manpower
- Poor Supply of Amenities to schools. Many schools in Nigeria do not possess the basic social amenities required of institutions of learning.
- High Cost of ICT equipment. Computers and other associated equipment are generally costly, and most families cannot afford them for their children’s use either in school or in the home.
- Prioritization of Certificates. The Nigerian nation places heavy emphasis on acquisition of certificates so much that many tend to ignore knowledge which is a means to certificate acquisition.
- Poor English Language competence as a result of poor students’ attitudes to teaching, poor methods of teaching, ineffective instructional aids etc. English is both a teaching subject and a medium for learning other subjects, computer studies inclusive. But the way many Nigerian students use English today it is evident that schools are not producing citizens that anybody can be proud of. The common example is what can be called the shortcut influence which manifests itself in the following ways:
(a)Using a book series called keypoints in place of standard textbooks.
(b) The preponderance of oral form of informal communication via handsets which is taking over writing
(c)Cultic groups are taking over literary and debating societies and students’ religious fellowships
(d)Examination malpractice has taken over hard work and honest character
(e)Television viewing as a form of leisure which is fast replacing reading.
This poor foundation in language and communication takes its roots from poor foundation in students’ mother tongues. The situation is so bad that the average child in the secondary school is neither proficient in his mother tongue nor in English.
The Way Forward
Based on the above, we hereby make the following suggestions:
- Government shouldinitiate ways of fostering the ICT literacy skills of teachers by sponsoring them to workshops and short term programmes.
- Government should improve on power supply in the country at large and schools in particular.
- Government should improve on the supply of ICT equipment and other amenities to schools and colleges.
- Parents should do counterpart funding to enable government supply ICT equipment to schools.
- School PTAs should give priority to ICT programmes in schools that their children are attending.
- Teachers on their part should endeavour to go the extra mile in self-development in ICT.
- Teachers should give reading instruction its desired place on the school time table and revive the comatose reading culture.
- School head teachers should ensure that computer studies are introduced right at the primary school level.
- Government should give teachers at the primary and secondary levels better and improved work conditions to improve the quality of education offered at these levels.
- Parents and teachers should build a solid language foundation for children by ensuring that children are proficient in their mother tongues before learning English. Studies have shown that a child who is proficient in his/her mother tongue learns a foreign language better.
The planned introduction of e-examination by JAMB is a pointer that very soon, e-examination will be a condition for all public examinations in this country. Already, some universities have introduced e-examination as a way of taking examination. The first implication is that even when you escape it at the secondary school level, you will meet it when you get to the tertiary school level. Therefore, students should prepare themselves for these challenges by becoming computer literate. Even though we foresee that e-examination will suffer many setbacks when it comes into operation, a stitch in time saves nine. Students should note that government decision to make ICT education an integral part of their education is a good decision meant to help them become like their counterparts in other parts of the world. As such they should embrace it in earnest.
Most importantly, for us to live happier lives in today’s world, we all must strive to be ICT literate. The acquisition of computer literacy skills on the part of the students will not only make them improve on their study skills which will ultimately enable them to excel in schools, it will also guarantee free access to information and unlimited life opportunities.
United States Access Board (2011).Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines. Retrieved June 6, 2013 from http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/refresh/draft-rule.pdf.
UNESCO (2007).The UNESCO ICT in Education Programme. Retrieved June 6, 2013 from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001567/156769e.pdf.
Kpai, T., Joe-Kinanee, J.N. & Ekeleme, C. (2012).A study of computer literacy among trainee teachers in a Nigerian university of education. Global Voice of Educators,1(1).Retrieved may 12, 2013 from http://globaleducators.org/downloads/global_voice_of_educators/Journal%202012%20-%2012.pdf.
Federal Republic of Nigeria (2012).National Policy on Education and major reforms and innovations recently introduced in the Nigerian educational system. Abuja: NERDC.
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