Zimbabwean pupils are allowed to use smartphones in schools to enable them to do research. That’s the proclamation from Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Dr. Lazarus Dokora who mentioned this recently while addressing the Senate.
Frankly, l couldn’t agree with him more on that one. Smartphones can allow students to connect to various knowledge sources on the web so these devices can and should be used for research. There’s also the stubborn statistic that the majority of internet connections in Zimbabwe are from mobile devices so the internet for most Zimbabweans is through the phone.
Before we go on this pro-smartphone campaign, there are various other factors to consider.
While its commendable that Zimbabwe has decided to move forward to allow smartphone use in primary and secondary schools, there is considerable research that shows that banning smartphones in schools improves the tests scores of low achieving students. Banning smartphones can improve a schools pass rate by more than 6.4 %.
Although we have a high literacy rate, the quality of the our education has been declining. The overall pass rate of the students taking local exams has decreased significantly.
It would be ill advised to allow the students to use smartphones in schools. There are already reforms to address the arcane curriculum in schools but introducing tech and curriculum reforms simultaneously might make us fail to realize benefits from these reforms.
Maybe the Ministry of Education should be addressing the education inequality in schools. There are various schools were the students to computer ratio is more than 30 : 1. Some schools in the rural areas don’t have internet access. Allowing the use of smartphones in schools will only increase the technology inequality in our schools.
What’s the alternative?
Instead of introducing smartphones in schools nationwide, the government should consider doing a pilot project in several schools. This can be done at various schools – schools with different pass rates, schools offering WiFi to students. They can then look at what kind of ‘research’ the students are using the internet for, and the overall effect of use of smartphones in schools.
Our local schools are clearly not ready for cellphone use. Without an aggressive drive to inculcate e-learning first, l would imagine a lot of students would use the smartphones to keep up with their social media. Legalizing the use of smartphones in schools is just giving students a free pass to go on WhatsApp while at school.