Media Alert: Free high-speed internet at all Western Cape schools by end-2016
Premier Helen Zille formally launched the Western Cape’s eLearning “Game-Changer” at the province’s Legislature building in Cape Town today (8 September 2015).
This Game Changer will provide free high-speed internet access to all Western Cape schools by the end of 2016, to support teaching and learning.
Fast, reliable digital resources offer excellent opportunities for improving access to quality education in all communities.
Our vision is to use eLearning to improve literacy and numeracy, and to ensure that our learners are better prepared for the 21st century.
The eLearning programme has two key parts.
The first is free high-speed broadband access.
The second is to give learners and teachers instant access to the very best digital materials for teaching and learning. That is why we are also launching our new ePortal today.
The Western Cape Government (WCG) is investing R3.8 billion over the next 10 years to bring high-speed broadband to all residents of the Western Cape.
And schools are our first priority. Over the next decade, R2 billion of the total investment will be on connectivity at schools.
The broadband system will provide a Wide Area Network (WAN). A total of 581km of fibre optic cable will have been laid by the end of 2016, alongside the existing 1251km Neotel cable network. This is the backbone that connects all schools and other sites across the province.
The Western Cape Education Department is also installing Local Area Networks (LANs) in schools, district offices and head offices to connect classrooms, teachers and learners to the broader admin system.
Work started in September last year, and the first schools were connected to the WAN in April this year.
As at 31 August 2015, service providers have completed connectivity at 275 schools. By the end of 2016, all schools in the province will have free, high-speed internet access.
The plan also includes investment in technology in “smart classrooms”, including interactive whiteboards, laptops, projectors and other devices to support teaching and learning.
In addition, students will be able to use their own devices, and we are working on plans to achieve more affordable access to these essential learning resources.
A total of 3 350 smart classrooms were established in schools in 2014/15. The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) also refreshed 249 computer laboratories in the same year.
Teacher training is an essential part of the eLearning programme. The WCED has provided 26 000 ICT training opportunities to date, to support teaching and learning.
Meanwhile, the new eLearning Portal has gone live, and is accessible at www.wcedeportal.co.za.
We believe the ePortal can revolutionise eLearning by opening up access to digital education resources like never before.
Our new broadband system and the digital revolution are making it much easier to respond to the individual needs of learners, teachers, parents, school managers and governors.
All of these individuals can easily access the ePortal from any location. Users can search for a range of content, including videos, apps, ebooks, courses and digital documents.
The content available on the ePortal will be entirely demand-driven, with content suppliers competing to provide the best digital resources.
Learners and teachers can rate the content, with the most popular content surfacing to the top in search results.
This signals a fundamental shift away from top-down, supply-driven government.
Users can explore this content by keyword or by using a wide range of filters, including the type of user (for example, learners and teachers), subject, grade, language, paid for and free resources, and type of activity, for example, teaching or school administration.
Contributors can register on the site and upload information using online templates. They can tag their content according to content types, for example, subjects, grades, end users and types of activities.
The WCED will load further information on the site, ranging from teaching and learning materials to study tips, guidelines on maintaining discipline and documents on education policy.
Schools and teachers will also upload content. This enables them to share best practice with each other, for example, proven teaching tips, video lessons and successful school governance policies.
Content will be screened only to ensure that it is relevant, and aligned to the national curriculum as required.
Through this ePortal, we are working with the private sector and civil society to build an enabling, digital environment that supports collaboration, cooperation and sharing.
We are witnessing a revolution in how learners acquire knowledge and skills.
eLearning is raising the bar, and we have to ensure that we have the tools needed to make the most of this opportunity.
The Western Cape Government is now providing these tools to ensure that our learners are ready for the 21st century.