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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Taskeen Adam

Educational Technologies in Rwanda: Visions for the Sustainable Implementation of the One Laptop per Child Project

The Rwandan government has, to date, deployed over 210,000 XO laptops to 466 (out of 2711) primary schools as part of the international One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative in an attempt to implement sustainable education. Access to technology, however, does not necessarily imply improved learning outcomes.
This research evaluates the sustainable implementation of educational technologies in the OLPC-Rwanda project. The stakeholders perceived visions of the project, and the roles and responsibilities they perceive other stakeholders to have, are analysed. The enabling factors and constraining barriers to improving educational outcomes are also evaluated, with particular focus on professional development of teachers.
Fieldwork was conducted in Kigali over two weeks. Students, teachers, OLPC trainers and Rwandan Education Board staff were observed, interviewed and surveyed. The results showed a multiplicity of visions, from empowering students through entirely self-directed learning, to making Rwanda the next ICT hub. These have led to different strategies of implementation. Major aspects of the project, such as professional development of teachers, are passed off as the duty of other stakeholders, leaving gaps in the project. Enabling factors include a dedicated, well-intentioned and goal-driven local team, although their efforts are focused on deployment targets instead of improved learning. Barriers include hardware limitations, ineffective use of laptops and inadequate professional development of teachers.
Going forward, pedagogies need to be adapted to incorporate the interactive use of educational technologies across curriculum-based lessons and improve learning. Ultimately, the focus needs to shift from deployment to training, support and maintenance. Further research needs to be done to determine the best student-to-laptop ratio, factoring cost- efficiency.