Ghana is a country that does not have a coherent policy for education infrastructure. At the same time, rising rates of mobile phone use among the population make this country ripe for an m-learning revolution. School infrastructure in Ghana can be very poor, with inadequate ventilation, security features (for example, for laboratory equipment) safety for flooring and other issues. These conditions can make it especially difficult for learners with disabilities either to make it to school in the first place or to learn in comfort once they are there. M-learning is a viable nation wide solution to these defects in Ghana’s present education infrastructure. M-Learning has the potential to reach all students in the country through the simple medium of their mobile phones. As a result, it would surmount the difficulties inherent in Ghana’s less than perfect current educational infrastructure.
The power of m-learning in Ghana: the current situation
Ghana has one of the best developed mobile phone markets in all of Africa. In fact, most Ghanaians do not only own a mobile, they also prefer to use their mobile instead of using a landline. Most Ghanaians also prefer to access the internet through their mobile phones rather than via a fixed wifi or cable internet system in the home. Though 3G coverage in Ghana is relatively new, this is also growing as well, which again suggests that the future of m-learning in Ghana will be a very positive one. MTN Ghana, Vodafone, Tigo and Airtel are the four largest mobile phone providers in Ghana, with MTN Ghana being by far the biggest provider (having cornered around 50 % of the market). With both affordable pay as you go and sim packages readily available in Ghana, m-learning has the potential to reach the whole of the country’s population. Ghana is currently classed as a middle income country, which means that its citizens are usually able to afford items such as mobile phones. In addition, app literacy in Ghana is very prevalent, with exciting new apps for both learning and leisure (like Esoko and RetailTower) being developed in the country every year.
Integrating m-learning with secondary and tertiary educational institutions in Ghana
The secondary education system in Ghana is known as Senior High School, and it can often be supplemented or even (in parts) replaced by m-learning. What is particularly pertinent to know is that ICT is actually part of the ‘integrated science’ section of the SHS curriculum, which means that new generations of Ghanaians are growing up with the skills that they need to learn via the web. Though the buzz of the classroom environment can be something that benefits learners, as mentioned above, not all schools in Ghana are totally fit for purpose and thus m-learning is a viable alternative to both the SHS curriculum and to TVET (vocational training) curricula that are offered after completion of the SHS.
When it comes to tertiary education, Ghana has 49 private universities and 6 public universities. Many of these institutions are focused around a specific subject, such as Agriculture. E-learning is already well integrated into the curricula of many of Ghana’s top universities. For example, the University of Ghana has recently created the KEWL – Knowledge Environment for Web Based Learning – initiative. Many online courses are also available as part of the rise and rise of e-learning in the country. In addition, the edtech phenomenon of MOOC has really been taking off throughout Ghana and Sub-Sahara Africa. MOOC is an initiative which offers an online course to a large number of people and it is usually free of charge. This initiative is, as may be expected, particularly useful for low income or very poor communities in Sub-Sahara Africa for whom financial factors would otherwise pose a significant barrier to their ability to access education. As a result, mobile learning projects could simply adapt and build on the existing e-learning infrastructure in Ghana’s tertiary education system.
There is a rising amount of local and regional companies which provide products and materials for online courses and exam preparations, the classical fields of m-learning. This African providers guide illustrates a list of edtech startups in several countries.
Estimation of the future of the power of M-learning in Ghana
The future of the power of m-learning in Ghana looks very bright. This is due to two key factors. Firstly, the existing educational infrastructure is – particularly at the secondary level – often physically and materially inadequate for students to learn successfully. As such, there is a clear problem here that mobile learning could solve. Secondly, Ghana’s population is made up of some of Africa’s most skilled, savvy and frequent mobile phone users. The ubiquity of mobile phones means that the uptake of m-learning strategies would likely be very high. Add to this the fact that many tertiary education institutions in the country are already using e-learning platforms and other edtech to teach students remotely (for example, through online courses) and the future of m-learning across the country looks very positive indeed.
By Jens Ischebeck