By Valessa Rigoline Moanazafy
Madagascar struggles to provide equal opportunity for all citizens to access the education programs and many students as well as the children encounter great issues to go to school and complete their studies. This involves the high rate of poverty that limits the efforts of the parents due to the lack of financial support and on the other side the unemployment.
Recently, the education sector has faced a lot of criticism from all parties. The continuous challenges over decades do not end and this is not a secret for everyone. With prehistoric infrastructures including the school premises, learning materials and equipment, unqualified teachers and the teaching programs do not meet the market opportunities’ needs and wants as well as the demands. As a result, the students could not fully develop their skills and get the valuable education they deserve, which would equip them for future endeavors. This is the void in the system.
A question can arise, how to implement and manage online education? Since the existing one does not reach the vision of quality of education.
Certain people would say, Madagascar is not yet ready to move on to online education due to the current situation based on observational research and the fact that the country has very low income and poverty. On the other side, people perhaps say, it is a good initiative as it helps to familiarize with technology and get global knowledge, international certificate or degree and so forth.
Along with this article, it tends to provide an insight about the constraints of the moves to the online education program, and thus to propose possible solutions to alleviate this matter for betterment of education as a whole.
“Education is the best heritage” Malagasy proverb
Online education in Madagascar
Globally, since 1984 several academic institutions have innovated and established online learning platforms to make education accessible anywhere and people can benefit from it as they could ever imagine. This new way of doing things has grown and developed at a rapid pace and; furthermore, the pandemic covid-19 has accelerated this process and pushes almost all educational institutions worldwide to offer online programs, in particular the educative materials not only based in one area or students in the particular academic institution but also to reach the world.
Compared with the actual situation in Madagascar, online education is newly adopted by some academic institutions. Many private schools and the government schools remain in the archaic method of delivering the learning programs. This method is still on today.
Nevertheless, the spread of Covid-19 causes severe impacts not only in the economic sector but also in the education sector. Hence, from the beginning of the pandemic Covid-19, the schools were closed and students stayed at home until further notice. To alleviate the impact of Covid-19 certain educational institutions especially the private schools and universities have started to innovate and introduce online education for the students through the use of different e-learning technologies software and apps such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or even Facebook (live stream) for the others; whereas the other schools and the government schools remain closed.
“The internet has brought a change in the way of delivering teaching programs. It is no longer limited in the physical classroom but also extended into the online classroom with the use of sophisticated e-learning materials and tools to facilitate the learning programs.”
But, that’s not always the case for all world countries, especially in Madagascar.
In the 21st century, the implementation of online education is still problematic for the country under several reasons as follow -
Internet access/connectivity - without internet access, it is impossible to implement an online education program. As the statistic shows 75% of the population lives in poverty, this is enough reason to prove that the large proportion of the population could not afford another internet expense monthly.
In private institutions, students can benefit from internet access, however, the tuition fees are not designed for all people. That’s the fact.
Moreover, providing students with internet access could be very expensive without aid from external parties such as investors or the intergovernmental organizations such as UN and the others to collaborate for instance with the government and educational institutions to set up a project to improve the education programs by introducing the online education platform and support the project on providing free connectivity access for the students. This could help them to acquire valuable knowledge and skills.
E-learning material constraints and technical skills - The computer, tablet, smartphone, and other IT equipment are necessary to make the online education platform accessible for students. Not only in the school but the students must as well possess the material requirements to be able to follow the online courses and conduct research at home especially in this time of pandemic Covid-19.
Furthermore, skilled staff including the lecturers and IT staff are needed to measure the performance of students and the platform, in case the students encounter some issues to log in and other technical problems. It can present a burden for the educational institutions and restrain them from moving forward to digitalize the learning materials.
Financial constraints - A large proportion of households live in poverty both in the rural and urban areas and many children do not have access to school and acquire a good quality of knowledge due to lack of financial means. As such the parents would not afford to purchase the computers, internet expenses, and other equipment needed.
Some educational institutions encounter financial issues to set up the e-learning programs as it involves a lot of expenditures for them.
E-content development constraints - To implement an online education, the availability of e-content digitally is necessary so that the students have access to it at any time and anywhere.
How can it present some issues?
Developing e-content materials can present some difficulties such as - if the educational institutions do not have a better understanding of students or learners on how they learn? From this perspective, it would be challenging to come up with flexible and easy content.
The e-content material must engage the students to learn and capture the concept of unit learning material. Most people may quit the e-learning platform because they develop a lack of understanding of the lecture notes.
Moreover, the interaction and learning activities are important. How would educational institutions manage to do this? As known, learning activities help the students or learners to interpret in depth the information on their own.
No follow-up and evaluation - As reported by students who currently follow the online courses offered by the university through Facebook (live stream) during the lockdown due to the spread of covid-19, the internet connexion is very poor and the communication was lagging enough to listen to the lecture. As such, it is not expected from students to have a good performance.
On the other hand, the university does not evaluate the students' understanding about the lecture, if they really picture what has been explained. The students have to make huge efforts from their side to conduct some research.
Possible alternative solutions
Certainly, it is really challenging to set up the e-learning program or online education in the school as many students do not have access to the internet, financial constraints, material constraints, for the educational institutions, it could be technical skills, qualified staff, as well the developing the e-content material digitally. To address this matter, it needs the work of different parties to join together to make a positive change in the education system in the implementation of e-learning platforms.
For instance, the government and educational institutions collaborate to digitalize the learning programs. It obviously involves some expenditures to implement an e-learning program. It is worth it to improve the education system to equip the students with meaningful and valuable knowledge which will prepare them for future endeavors and align the programs with volatile job market opportunities and needs.
Otherwise, the government can collaborate with the e-learning platforms such as Udemy.com, coursera.org, or FAOU why not? or the other platforms of online learning to help the local students to get internationally recognized certificates or degrees that will secure employment. Starting from one academic institution or college to the others to ensure an equal education opportunity for everyone and thus making available all material requirements for them.
A great educational institution always innovates and moves along with the change in the global market and education. To be able to implement the flexible e-learning program, it is necessary to take into consideration the external factors among them are the demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioral factors and thus the available materials and tools which can be used to deliver the online learning programs to fit the target market segmentation.
Establishing an easy and convenient e-learning platform to facilitate the following of the courses.
Most of the students do not have internet access to conduct research nor to follow the online courses. In this case, creating a Facebook page or group which enables students to get in touch and interact with each other and school administration as it is costless.
Providing training for the staff to cope with the change
As many academic institutions do to be in partnership with different industries and other overseas institutions to share the learning programs and invite the students to enroll to the courses. At the end they can get global knowledge with international certificates, degrees or masters.
The local academic institutions can promote as well the courses to target the professionals and other students from other educational institutions to enroll in the programs.
Another suggestion, the educational institutions can call upon the youth-led organization to work together in the implementation of the online education program. The youths somehow have innovative and genuine ideas to improve the way of doing things. The collaboration will bring youths with different backgrounds of education, skills as well as experiences to share know-how about aiming a positive change in education like an e-learning platform for students. This project does not only concentrate on the students in one particular institution but also can target other students from other institutions as well as the professionals who want to enhance their technical skills and to upgrade the education level.