A year ago, the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Group in the Middle East & Africa started a series of pilots in Francophone West Africa, to introduce small-notebook PCs into schools in Burkina Faso, Senegal and Mali.
Each pilot used Microsoft software running on 50 low-cost, low energy-consumption laptops (Intel-powered Classmate PCs in Burkina Faso and ASUS eeePCs in Senegal & Mali) with Internet connectivity in a shared access, school lab scenario.
As the first small-notebook PC deployment of its kind for Microsoft in the least-developed countries of the world (as defined by United Nations Human Development Index), we learned a great deal, which we’re now factoring into other pilots across the world. For example:
- Shared Access: For low-resource schools, these pilots have already demonstrated the viability of using small-notebook PCs in a shared access (1 PC for a handful of students rather than 1 PC per student)model in Sub-Saharan Africa. A shared access deployment can be a more relevant and accessible solution for many schools and Ministries of Education that simply cannot afford a PC for every student.
- Integration with Curriculum: Shared access and school labs offer a lower return on government investment when they are used solely to improve student’s digital literacy. In contrast, all three pilots in Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso demonstrate the ability to apply technology to national curricula (Math, Science, etc), rather than just teach student’s basic digital skills.
- Teacher Training: Critical to any attempt to integrate technology into school curriculum was the teacher training program Microsoft introduced at each school in partnerships with local NGOs. The training programs empowered the teachers to use the PCs to teach any number of subjects above and beyond ICT skills.
For one pilot in particular, the Lycee John F. Kennedy in Dakar, Senegal, we charted its progress in a case study (PDF) and commissioned an evaluation (PDF) by Springboard Research to help evaluate the PCs impact upon the secondary school students’ academic achievement, learning tools and preparation for future study or job opportunities.
After interviewing Lycee John F. Kennedy’s students, teachers, school administrators and parents, as well as partnering government officials from Senegal’s Ministry of Education, Springboard Research found that:
- 100% of students surveyed agree the PCs helped them search for new information and expand their knowledge.
- 95% of students surveyed agree or strongly agree that learning to use the PCs will help them get a better job when they graduate.
- 100% of teachers said the PCs added value to the day-to-day learning process.
In addition, the use of PCs in the classroom showed significant improvements in the students’ coursework:
Pre pilot assignment results
Post Pilot assignment results
We’ve still got a long ways to go before integrating technology into under-resourced classrooms becomes a science rather than an art, but looking at the rise in assignment scores like the ones at the Lycee John F. Kennedy, we know we are on the right path.
— Kevin Connolly (Business Development Manager for Education Solutions) and Jumanah Anter (Marketing Specialist)
Microsoft Unlimited Potential Group – Middle East & Africa