Malawian digital learning project is a success
The Scottish government's zeal for tablet computers has spread as far as Malawi, where education secretary Michael Russell this week hailed the success of a digital learning project in the country.
The scheme, designed to help 30,000 pupils in Malawi learn maths using interactive apps, has "exceeded expectations", he said.
The government provided pound;285,000 to language-learning specialists Eurotalk in 2010 for primary education work using interactive digital software in 30 rural Malawi schools.
The project supports 300 teachers who tutor children using the devices; the children then share their knowledge with other pupils. Some 38,000 certificates to mark proficiency with the devices have been awarded; the ultimate aim is to raise attainment.
"Having seen the successful use of this technology in a number of schools in Scotland, I am in no doubt of the difference this project has and will continue to make to pupils in Malawi," said Mr Russell, who presented another 10 iPad and iPod touches to New State House Primary School in Lilongwe, which has 16 teachers and 1,275 pupils.
David Hope-Jones, principal officer of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, which is independent of government, confirmed that the project appeared to have been a considerable success.
The education secretary's week-long visit has received much attention in Malawi, said Mr Hope-Jones, as it marks "a very big step and shows that the Scottish government is serious about this strong historical partnership".
Mr Russell announced that the Scottish government would fund 50 postgraduate David Livingstone Bicentenary Scholarships, for gifted students to further their study in Malawi. The news came ahead of celebrations in 2013 to mark the bicentenary of the Scottish missionary's birth and the links he forged between the two countries.
Mr Hope-Jones described the move as "an essential step for long-term sustainable development in Malawi".
Malawi president Joyce Banda said: "One of the biggest challenges for our higher-education system is lack of resources. This is therefore a very timely intervention in Malawi's higher education sector."
At least half the scholarships will be awarded to women. A survey by the Global Campaign for Education this year showed Malawi was among a number of countries where fewer than one in 200 women go to university.
NUMBER OF ISSUES
A Unesco report this year, assessing progress towards the UN's goal of universal primary education by 2015, found Malawi among the countries struggling most with teacher numbers.
The required annual growth of teaching stocks was "most dire" in sub- Saharan Africa. Malawi, with a population of about 15 million, had 43,110 teachers in 2010, but needs 81,556 by 2015.