WCED Launches the Encyclopedia Britannica Education Pilot Programme
Good morning to you all. I am delighted to be here today for the launch of the WCED/Encyclopedia Britannica online Education Pilot Programme. We are very excited about this new project and I would sincerely like to thank Encyclopedia Britannica for making this very generous donation of resources of over R500 000 (R12 000 for each school). This government's main priority is to improve learner outcomes in the province. To achieve this, we are continuously exploring new sources of information and learning support material.
The availability of the Encyclopedia Britannica in an electronic format is an exciting new source for our learners to tap into. It also complements our plan in expanding the use of ICT materials in our schools. By integrating Encyclopedia Britannica online school edition into our schools through ICT learning channels, educators will now be able to access over 1.8 million learning objects for classroom use, as well as access tools for lesson planning and coursework setting. Learners will also be able to use the programme for research and learning purposes.
The learning zone of the programme has been designed specifically for learners to develop their literacy and numeracy skills, which falls in line with our priorities for developing learners' skills in these areas. I was very interested to read that the programme is continuously updated every day with new materials and resources and that it has been written and edited to the correct age-appropriate reading and knowledge levels. This means that learners in Grade 6 will now be able to read the articles in a format that they will easily understand.
I am delighted that the recipients of this programme are the 46 schools that achieved outstanding results and improvements in the 2010 provincial literacy and numeracy systemic tests. Each of these schools deserves to have such a wonderful resource at their fingertips and I look forward to seeing how this complements the future delivery of the curriculum. However, when any new programme is introduced to our schools, especially in ICT, it is important that the correct training is given so that educators are able to utilise the product fully. I was very pleased to learn that representatives from Britannica, who have flown in from the UK, and Sangari SA will be training teachers from the pilot schools on how to use the service in a series of interactive workshops. I have no doubt that these measures will help support a successful pilot. I would also like to thank the educators who are present here today to receive the training.
I know that you are giving up well-deserved holiday time to learn the programme, but I am sure that the benefits that this programme will offer in the coming months will make up for this! This programme will be administered through the WCED's current ICT channels, with access through our e-learning website. Each of the 46 schools chosen has the relevant infrastructure to support the programme. Currently, the WCED are in the process of conducting an ICT infrastructure audit in all of our schools. The purpose of the audit is to ascertain what is needed to facilitate the introduction of a Wide Area Network (WAN) for schools.
The survey will cover all aspects of information technology used at schools, including current internet systems. I expect to receive the final audit of this report in September, when we will then know the extent of the investment that is required to provide reliable, high-speed internet connectivity at Western Cape schools.
The WCED/Encyclopedia Britannica online Education Programme will be piloted for a year. Therefore, come July 2012, we will be able to determine, given the result of the pilot, if we can implement the programme successfully and cost effectively at all of our province's schools. Ultimately, all these programmes and initiatives have the real prospect to dramatically improve the levels of information technology in our schools dramatically and, in so doing, enhance learner outcomes in the Western Cape. We are moving fast towards an ICT-cultured classroom in this province and I am delighted to have Encyclopedia Brittanica and Sangari SA on board.