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Ministry of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research
Ministry of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research>The School Information Technology Project (SITP) (Yr 2002)

The School Information Technology Project (SITP) (Yr 2002)


In parallel to the E-Education and E-Training Task Force, a School IT Project (SITP) has been prepared by the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Scientific Research in 2000-2001. The SITP covers the pre-primary, primary, secondary and vocational sectors but the first priority of the project is the Primary School Sector.

In line with the reform proposals contained in the Primary School Curriculum Renewal of March 2001, ICT will be first introduced as a subject in primary schools – as from January 2003 - before being integrated across the curriculum in 2006.

At the moment, there is only an average of two PCs and a printer per school (with no Internet access) that are mainly used for administrative purposes as they are placed in the Head-teacher’s room for security reasons. In a few schools, the private sector/NGO’s have donated a Computer Room with a number of PCs installed with educational software, etc.

There are however two private fee-paying primary schools which have an average of 10 PCs per school and they both have access to the Internet [Ref: Interim Report of the E-Education and E-Training Task Force, November 2001].

For the introduction of ICT as a subject in primary schools, some 330 ICT Teachers have been recruited this year and have started a 9-month intensive Computer Proficiency Training Programme at the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE) since March 2002.

An activity-based ICT Curriculum has been worked out for all Standards, i.e. Standard I-VI, by foreign consultants (Dr. H. Alles, Mr. A. Taurisson and Ms V. Torrens) and local resource persons. The procedures for the procurement of hardware, software, the establishment of the SchoolNet (national educational network) and of a Data Centre are underway through a Request for Information and Requests for Proposals which are being supported by the World Bank as per the policy of Government.

The Request for Information (RFI) was launched by the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology (IT) in July 2001 and its deadline was 7 September 2001. 37 firms/companies have replied to the RFI and a panel was set up in December 2001, chaired by the Executive Director of the Mauritius Research Council – which is, by law, the adviser of Government in Science and Technology - with representatives of the Ministry of Education and Scientific Research and the Central Informatics Bureau (CIB) of the Ministry of IT, to take stock of the 37 replies to the RFI.

Mr. M. Pieters of the Amstel Institute of the Netherlands was delegated by the World Bank to examine the 37 proposals from a pedagogical perspective and he submitted his report to Government in December 2001 also.

Then, in April 2002, a Dutch team comprising of Mrs. Marjan Vernooy-Gerritsen, Mr. Sjoerd Jan Spoelstra and Mr. Govinda Rajan, also delegated by the World Bank, came to Mauritius to examine the 37 replies to the RFI from a technical/technological perspective. The team submitted their report to Government.

Since 2001, it has been agreed between the Ministries of Education and Information Technology and the World Bank that a Procurement Specialist from the Bank would assist the Government to draft the Requests for Proposals (RFP) which will be, in fact, the international tender documents.

Local and international resource persons (Mr. S. Rambelesson, Procurement Specialist of the World Bank Bureau in Madagascar; Mr. R. Unnuth, Director of the Central Informatics Bureau; Mr. A. Taurisson; Dr. N. Chandrasekaran; Dr. Sukon of the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate and Mr. R. Jhuree of the Mauritius Institute of Education) worked out the RFP and drafted the international tenders, under the chairmanship of Dr. A. Suddhoo of the MRC, in July 2002. The tenders will be floated for two months, as from the beginning of August and after which, the evaluation and award exercise will take place.

A proper School IT Project Division is being set up at the Ministry of Education and a Project Manager would be soon appointed to manage and co-ordinate the whole project.

 

The Primary School Sector

As stated earlier, the first phase of the School IT Project is focused on the Primary School Sector because ICT is almost inexistent at primary school level and there is an urgency to introduce ICT at that level as the Primary School Curriculum Renewal Project states that ICT would be introduced in all primary schools and taught as a subject, whereas in the secondary schools sector, more than 60% of schools do offer ICT as a subject and there are quite well-equipped Computer Labs in these schools.

According to the SITP, all the 277 primary schools of the Republic will have, at least, a Computer Lab with 21 PCs, two printers (one ink-jet colour and one laser black & white), a scanner, a digital camera and a server with a LAN. They will all be connected to a network (SchoolNet) controlled by a powerful central server, based at the Ministry of Education, through which Internet connection will be possible and on which server on-line educational resources will be available.

330 ICT teachers have been recruited this year and they have started a 9-month intensive training course at the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE) since March. Out of these 330 ICT teachers, some 270 will be teaching on a full-time basis in schools while the remaining 60 will be either floating ones (replacing teachers on leave, etc.) or will give assistance in schools where there will be more than a lab.

Some 317 Computer Labs will be needed for the 277 schools and, therefore, some 40 schools, which are among the most over-populated ones, will be having two labs instead of one. Out of the 277 schools, some 90 have a spare room where a Computer Lab may be set up whereas in the other 187 schools, a Lab will have to be constructed.

The reason for having ICT as a subject in primary schools from 2003 to 2005 is that the teachers have not been trained to use ICT as a pedagogical tool and many of them are not even Computer Literate! This is why the next big step is now to plan, structure and organise the Training Programme of ALL the 5,400 primary school teachers in ICT Curriculum Integration from 2003-2005 so that they are all skilled with the use of ICT as a pedagogical tool in their classes as from 2006. Preliminary contacts have already been established with experienced foreign organisations to support this project.

 

The Secondary Sector

For the secondary sector, which is the second priority of the School IT Project, there will be mainly capacity building in the short term – i.e. Setting up of Computer Labs (through grants to the private secondary schools) and offering of Computer Studies/Computing Courses in schools where there is presently nothing and increase the capacity and bring the student-computer ratio in schools where there is already a Computer Lab to 1:1 and where Computer Studies/Computing is already offered.

In the state secondary sector, all the 39 schools are equipped with a Computer Lab with an average of 15 PCs and the plan is to gradually increase capacity so as to reach almost a student-computer ratio of 1:1. All state secondary schools’ libraries have access to the Internet.

To date, all state secondary schools (about 28% of the total number of secondary schools) do offer Computer Studies from Form I-III as a compulsory subject; 75% offer it at O-Level/School Certificate (SC) and 25% at A-Level/Higher School Certificate (HSC). On the other hand, about 77% of the private colleges offer Computer Studies from Form I-III but only 60% of them do offer it at O-Level/SC and 20% at A-Level/HSC.

Apart from a few priviledged private fee-paying schools, ICT is not yet used as a pedagogical tool in the learning process in secondary schools. It is however the intention of the Ministry of Education and Scientific Research, in the review of the Secondary Curriculum next year, to lay emphasis on the compulsory teaching of Computer Studies at the lower secondary level as well as on the use of ICT as a pedagogical tool across the curriculum.

 

The Pre-school Sector

At the pre-primary level, there is only 39 pre-schools out of the 1,100 or so (3.5%) which have dedicated computers for children – Out of which, only 7 pre-schools have access to the Internet [Ref: Interim Report of the E-Education and E-Training Task Force, November 2001]. In the School IT Project, the introduction of ICT in the Pre-school Sector is the third priority of Government and it will not materialise before 2-3 years.

In the School IT Project, it is mentioned that there would be two PCs and a printer per pre-school with the relevant educational software.

 

The Vocational Sector

The Vocational and Continuing Education Sector reckoned up to 16,212 enrolments in IT courses of various levels in 1999 [Ref: Interim Report of the E-Education and E-Training Task Force, November 2001]. An enhanced participation is expected this year.

Of the 151 institutions registered with the Industrial Vocational and Training Board (IVTB) – which is the official body for the regulatory of the vocational sector in Mauritius -, 65 do offer IT courses at varying levels, ranging from short non-award courses to structured ones. A number of the non-award courses are continuing education activities*.

The Vocational Sector will be the second priority of Government (along with the Secondary Sector) in the School IT Project in which it is recommended that a Computer Lab be set up in each of the Vocational Centres with a student/computer ratio near to 1:1.