State’s ed­u­ca­tion chan­nel awaits dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion

CityPress - - News - SIPHO MA­SONDO sipho.ma­sondo@city­press.co.za

The depart­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion in­tends to launch a free-to-air, 24-hour ed­u­ca­tion chan­nel next year to help pupils and im­prove teach­ing.

There is only one snag: it is de­pen­dent on the coun­try’s dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion, which was stalled by a fiercely con­tested de­bate be­tween DStv and e.tv.

Ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Eli­jah Mhlanga this week said the ed­u­ca­tion chan­nel would be one of 18 that the SABC would broad­cast once it had fully mi­grated to dig­i­tal ter­res­trial tele­vi­sion. The pub­lic broad­caster said it planned to start the mi­gra­tion in Jan­uary.

“It will be a ded­i­cated chan­nel owned by gov­ern­ment. We will man­age and de­liver cur­ricu­lum con­tent that will go di­rectly into the class­room,” said Mhlanga.

“The chan­nel will as­sist us in bring­ing the cur­ricu­lum, poli­cies and in­ter­ven­tion pro­grammes di­rectly to pupils. Cur­rently, there is no free-to-air chan­nel ded­i­cated to ed­u­ca­tion. The chan­nels we have now are on pay TV and very few peo­ple can ac­cess them.”

But Mhlanga ad­mit­ted that it all de­pended on the dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion – which has al­ready faced lengthy de­lays.

“We are almost ready to roll. Our plans are at an ad­vanced stage. But it all de­pends on when the SABC mi­grates from the ana­logue for­mat to dig­i­tal ter­res­trial,” he said.

The planned chan­nel, Mhlanga said, would be ver­sa­tile, and used for win­ter and sum­mer classes for Grade 12s. It will dis­sem­i­nate im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion, fa­cil­i­tate tele­con­fer­enc­ing and en­able the train­ing of teach­ers.

“There is so much con­tent that we need to share with both pupils and teach­ers. No one else can do this ex­cept us. We have the con­tent.”

He said teach­ers were also in need of help.

“Teach­ers are not al­ways com­pe­tent. We have es­tab­lished through re­search that teach­ers skip sec­tions they do not un­der­stand. In such cases, we will rope in ex­perts to break down and ex­plain those is­sues to them,” Mhlanga said.

Ru­ral schools, which are hard to reach, would ben­e­fit the most, he said.

“It will cer­tainly bridge the di­vide be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral set­tings, and avail the same po­ten­tial to all pupils, re­gard­less of where they are.”

The move was part of the depart­ment’s strat­egy to grad­u­ally in­tro­duce in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy, and move away from tra­di­tional meth­ods of teach­ing, said Mhlanga.

The depart­ment has al­ready com­pleted a pro­gramme to digi­tise the en­tire cur­ricu­lum and all text­books, which are now avail­able for tablets, iPads and com­put­ers.

“By 2019, all schools need to be con­nected to the in­ter­net, and be ready for in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy,” he said.

The SA Demo­cratic Teach­ers’ Union is pi­lot­ing a chan­nel – 319 on DStv – which will de­liver con­tent di­rected specif­i­cally at teach­ers.

The union’s gen­eral sec­re­tary, Mug­wena Maluleke, said the chan­nel was launched in July and was be­ing pi­loted in KwaZulu-Natal.

“The chan­nel will be used for a va­ri­ety of things. It will as­sist teach­ers with how to pre­pare for lessons,” he said.

“It will be an in­ter­ac­tive chan­nel where teach­ers will be able to ask ques­tions and share knowl­edge. We will also use it to com­mu­ni­cate im­por­tant an­nounce­ments.”

Maluleke ac­knowl­edged that be­ing on pay TV was a short­com­ing as not all teach­ers had ac­cess to DStv.

“We are look­ing into ways of es­tab­lish­ing the chan­nel on free-to-air tele­vi­sion. We should have that in the next year or two. We are do­ing all this in or­der to ad­vance the pro­fes­sion.”

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