re-articulated impressions of ICT literacy certification

Best wishes for 2011!

I’ve given the problem  — trying to get international certification using non-mothertongue language —
some thought over the years of SchoolNet ICT development efforts in Namibia and further afield.

Much attention has been paid to ICDL-like competency testing and certification opportunities for teachers and students in secondary and tertiary education systems to meet ambitious millennium goals, and sadly,
significantly large numbers of perfectly intelligent individuals continue to fail these mostly multiple-choice tests largely owing to insufficient skills in  *non-mothertongue* language.

The fundamental flaw lies in students being confronted by several answers of which only one is correct, but the others almost correct or almost incorrect, often using word-subtleties in that language, all of
us have to think twice before marking what we think is the *most* correct answer…

Accordingly, if we are forced to use a foreign language like English (!) to serve internationally-recognised certification courses to people who don’t have such a language as mother-tongue, we are doomed to consistently poor exam results for all but the  *exceptional* best.

To illustrate – I’m feeling quite cynical today 🙂 – quoting, in the most part :-), a dear colleague of mine in Namibia, Andrew Clegg (see link below) , “the Namibian educational system (and that of all other former British colonies) came into being through the English Education Act of 1918. This system of year standards lead to an examination eventually called the School Certificate examination taken at Ordinary and Advanced levels (with vast quantities of multiple-choice questions! – my words). Success in this exam gave exemption to matriculation examinations set until then by the British Universities. This 1918 system became one of the most successful exports throughout the British Empire.  The reason it served the colonies so well was that it was a very cost-effective mechanism for rapidly selecting and educating only the best local people to help the British run their country for them. Those who failed the standards rapidly dropped out and so did not cost anything. It was a perfect system for creating dropouts and thereby saving money.”

The French and Portuguese colonists used similar deviousness to ensure the same rewarding comfort zones in their colonies.  Enough cynicism – the question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not this is what we want from contemporary ICT skills development programmes – exceptional or general success ?

Hence my earlier reference in Skype discussions with FOSSFA and ICT@INNOVATION players to what efforts address *localisation* in the ICT@INNOVATION programme.   I like the challenges set by LPI to aspiring System administrators.  However, what is being done, locally, to get the examinations localised to the extent that they allow us to overcome English/French/Portuguese as  second/third language?  Who has tackled this pedagogically?

Judging from the LPI results provided by Evans in his blog recently, is there substance in my argument –  and I put it to ICT@INNOVATION that the process you are using to prepare candidates for LPI exams may in fact be the closest thing to language proficiency preparation we’ve got.

On one side, I would love to see LPI certification demand in Africa allow for more language options to evolve on the LPI web site – I see that Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese pages exist so why not also encourage them to foster kiSwahili, Arabic and other African languages?

On the other, to what extent has LPI considered some kind of (local) language proficiency index for developing country candidates ?  Could we explore that as part of the ICT@INNOVATION programme?  Indeed, how *do* we localise without compromising the high standards of the LPI exams?

My first cents worth in 2011

Have a prosperous year!

With thanks to Andrew Clegg, formerly in Namibia.


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