Digital Divide More Acute in Access to Education

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Student works from a The Answer Series study guide.

Pupils across the country have been hard hit by the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has thrown the school calendar into disarray. To assist learners with their preparations for upcoming examinations, a number of very welcome efforts have been put in place to help schools and teachers harness technology, including making several educational sites free. However, for scholars affected by the digital divide, printed textbooks remain critical. For these learners, limited internet access and high data prices make online resources difficult to come by. In addition, multiple studies over the past decade have shown that when it comes to information retention, print remains the better medium.[i]

In Mpumalanga, where the latest General Household Survey by Statistics South Africa found that just 4.4% of households have direct access to the internet, the Mpumalanga Department of Education is assisting students studying at home by providing take-home hardcopy study guide books from The Answer Series for high school students across the province.[ii]

Apart from being a pragmatic and immediate solution to Mpumalanga’s educational challenges, multiple studies have shown that students actually prefer to learn using paper text and workbooks. Furthermore, these studies found that learners of all ages, from primary school to university, tend to absorb and retain more information better when reading from paper than on electronic screens; in addition, students reading from paper may be more aware and understanding of their own thought processes.[iii]

“The only disadvantage of paper resources for learning is that hardcopy educational material tends to be more expensive for students to acquire. This is a critical factor to consider for pupils in Mpumalanga who live in a historically poor province, but who at the same time are in need of modern learning materials. By championing this obstacle on their behalf, the Mpumalanga Department of Education is actively empowering the province’s schooling system and ensuring that their students receive a competitive education,“ says Monwabisi Mfobo, Government Relations at The Answer Series.

About The Answer Series:

Since 1975, The Answer Series has been empowering high school learners’ exam success with its comprehensive, easy to use study guides. Written and frequently updated by teachers, examiners and subject specialists, The Answer Series guides cover a range of school subjects, including Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Accounting, which help learners understand content and prepare for assessments.

[i] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1467-9817.12269

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