Improving the Computer Literacy of Young People: The Case of Botswana
Computers are becomingmore and more common in all aspects of life. More jobs requireapplicants to be familiar with computers. As this technology achievesprevalence in everyday life and in the workplace, the use ofcomputers has gained in importance. Botswana, like other countries,has recognized the need to increase the technological background ofits people to better compete in world markets.
The revised NationalPolicy on Education is designed to prepare Botswana, located insouth-central South Africa, for the transition to an industrialeconomy driven by information technology. Computers - when used ineducation - encourage the development of problem solving, analyticaland research skills. The National Policy on Education therefore callsfor the inclusion of a Computer Awareness programme in all CommunityJunior Secondary Schools and tertiary institutions.
The introduction of theprogramme within the Education Structure ensures a basic level ofcomputer competence for most, and in the long run all, young peoplethroughout Botswana. Tomorrow's world is one where informationhandling skills will be necessary to improve the standards oflearning and living. The Computer Awareness programme aims toincorporate a section on Telecommunications later, so that studentscan communicate with others via the giant electronic network known asthe Internet.
The development of theComputer Awareness programme for the Community Junior SecondarySchools was prompted by recommendations made by the National Policyon Education of 1994. Consultants reached out to a variety ofstakeholders to define a comprehensive syllabus. The programme seeksto acquaint pupils to the use of computers as tools to increaseproductivity and automate tasks commonly found in the workplace. Forexample, unlike a typewritten document, a word-processed document canbe corrected without retyping it. The programme intends to providebasic computer knowledge and literacy, not immediately producecomputer experts. As a result, students could pursue future studiesin computer science without being intimidated.
Ten-YearBasic Education Programme
Rather than offer astand-alone programme, schools infuse Computer Awareness into othersubjects in the curriculum, organized into the following modules:Word Processing, Spreadsheets and Databases. These Productivity Toolsare not taught during specified times but presented over a period oftime. Upon completion of the Ten-Year Basic Education Programme,students are expected to have acquired or developed:
- Competency and confidence in the application of computational skills in order to solve day-to-day problems.
- An understanding of business, commercial transactions and entrepreneurial skills.
- Critical thinking, problem solving, interpersonal and inquiry skills.
- Desirable attitudes towards different types of work and the ability to assess personal achievement and capabilities realistically in pursuit of appropriate career opportunities and/or further education.
- Knowledge of food production and industrial arts for self-reliance and self-sufficiency.
- An awareness of significance of computers in the workplace.
- Respect for the environment and information about preserving and utilizing natural resources.
- Familiarity with their culture including languages, traditions, ceremonies, customs and social norms.
- An ability to express themselves clearly in English, Setswana and a third language, both orally and in writing.
- Basic knowledge of science and the laws governing the natural world.
- Good moral and health practices that will prepare them for responsible family and community life.
- Special interests, whether these be related to physical strength, intellect or artistic talents.
- An appreciation of technology and technological skills.
The Task Force responsiblefor the Computer Awareness syllabus identified the Macintosh computeras the most appropriate system for education. Four geographical zoneswere established to provide maintenance.
To date, the Faculties ofSocial Science, Humanities and Education have implemented coursesthat contain Computer Awareness modules. Recent policies from thegovernment of Botswana indicate strong support for the these effortsto improve technology literacy among the population.
Dr. P.T. Nleya is anengineering professor in the Department of Educational Technology atthe University of Botswana.
This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1998 issue of THE Journal.