Aletile Afolake, a teacher with the Lagos State Ministry of Education did not see it coming just like many other teachers in the state, till she found herself in a District 6 training hall for digital education.
Before this time, Afolake had believed teaching is limited to standing before the pupils with a writing board to explain lessons, but the EKOEXCEL expository sessions made a difference in her life and career.
“I’m highly excited to be part of the training, and I want to appreciate the state governor for taking such a bold initiative to better position education in Lagos. We were exposed to computer programmes and systems of teaching and learning via technology that is basically structured to create animations, games and cartoons,” she said.
Most of the head-teachers, teachers, pupils and even parents applauded the initiative but some have reservations about the implementations
Afolake, just like many other participants, could not hide her joy for being part of the progress story of Lagos State education transformation.
“I gained a lot of experience and it was fun. Quite interesting!” she chuckled. In fact, teaching is easy and fun, very interactive and enjoyable. It helps students to enjoy learning,” she said.
Afolake applauds the Sanwo-Olu administration for making available the tablets and accessories to kick-start the programme.
Excellence in Child Education and Learning (EKOEXCEL) is a technology-driven initiative of Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s led administration that is geared at bridging the gap in education service delivery with the integration and infusion of technology into the basic education pedagogy.
The initiative was launched in 2019 to cater for all public primary schools in the state and to provide quality education.
EKOEXCEL has since empowered teachers and school managers in delivering better quality education through effective classroom management techniques that have improved learning outcomes in the state’s public schools.
The initiative is an education reform programme that is successfully developing more highly skilled teachers; by training, supporting and motivating existing government teachers to succeed in their classrooms.
As Lagos aspires to become a 21st-century economy and a leading economy in Africa, a critical investment in basic education is required to build the quality workforce needed for the future.
Wahab Alawiye-King, the executive chairman of Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB), in appreciation to the efforts of Lagos State governor in upgrading the teaching profession and the ministry to a global standard, maintained that with the initiative, Lagos State primary education under his leadership will ensure that every child has access to quality education.
Alawiye-King disclosed that the training is meant to equip teachers with technological skills, and know-how that will make them globally competitive.
“EKOEXCEL is a phenomenon that has happened in the state. It is all about bringing information and communication technology (ICT) into classrooms. It is all-encompassing.
“In fact, EKOEXCEL is meant to open young minds to a learning environment that is 21st century compliant. It is an initiative geared towards ensuring that no child in Lagos State is left behind in our quest to provide qualitative education in the contemporary setting,” he said.
The benefits of EKOEXCEL are numerous such as teachers being empowered and made able to deliver at the same level as their counterparts around the world, there is on ground strong continuous support that encourages improvement in teachers and pupils, to enable them to accelerate reading and literacy skills to compete with their peers globally.
Besides, teachers will become more professional and technologically savvy in their work, and more skilful in helping children to learn in a positive environment.
Moreover, LASUBEB and other governing bodies will have adequate data to carry out necessary academic adjustments and infrastructural development across schools, and many more.
LASUBEB, under the able leadership of Alawiye-King is seen to be pragmatic in ensuring that no child is left behind in the board’s quest to raise holistic children.
According to information from the universal basic education board, over 18,000 headteachers and teachers have been moved from analogue to digital teaching, using tablets and updated curricula. Over 14,000 primary school teachers from 1,017 public primary schools have been captured under the scheme.
Besides, over 400,000 children’ lives have been positively transformed by the EKOEXCEL programme.
According to the EKOEXCEL 2020-2021 end-line fluency and numeracy evaluation, EKOEXCEL pupils are making remarkable progress in oral reading fluency and foundational numeracy compared to their performance prior to the commencement of the initiative.
The report states that an average primary 3 EKOEXCEL pupil can now read at nearly the same fluency level as an average primary 5 pupil from before the launch of the programme.
Alawiye-King, responding to the report’s findings, expressed his delight, promising that it is only the beginning of EKOEXCEL’s positive impacts.
“I am most delighted that the study showed the meaningful impacts of EKOEXCEL on our pupils and things will only get better, going forward. We have taken key learning’s from the report and will address areas of concern,” he said.
The assessment report stated that on average, EKOEXCEL primary 2-3 pupils are outperforming 13 other country contexts on the International Common Assessment of Numeracy (ICAN) while primary 4-6 ranked third out of 14 country contexts on the same numeracy assessment.
Adebayo Adefuye, a permanent board member of LASUBEB and oversight chair of the EKOEXCEL programme, also expressed his delight, noting that there would be further improvements by the time the next evaluation is done.
“We are happy with the report’s findings and we take it as further motivation to work harder and achieve more milestones. We are surely not going to rest on our oars until our public school system becomes significantly better, with parents and pupils themselves attesting to the positive changes,” Adefuye said.
Crucially, the evaluation affirms that EKOEXCEL is both improving learning over what existed before and it is continuing to improve learning with the programme, over time.
The study, which was conducted in July 2021 involved researchers administering two assessments to primary 1-6 pupils. The tests were an oral reading fluency assessment (using a primary 2 passage and a grade-level passage) and a foundational numeracy assessment (using ICAN).
The EKOEXCEL programme not only mitigated learning loss; it actually accelerated learning amidst a global learning crisis. Besides, EKOEXCEL pupils are performing well when compared with other international contexts.
Adefuye disclosed that going forward, the programme would focus on ensuring that the average pupil is meeting or exceeding international fluency benchmarks, and also that EKOEXCEL pupils outperform other comparable contexts on more complex foundational numeracy competencies.
The governor’s wish and desire, he stated, is that pupils of public primary schools receive quality instructions that would be beneficial to them and in the long run, so Lagosians will be happy to have EKOEXCEL.
This digitised intellectual and technological exposure given to teachers at the EKOEXCEL training programmes has digitised both pupils and teachers for global competitiveness.
The paradigm shift from norms has instilled discipline in the classroom, actively engaged the pupils in classroom activities with the use of character boards and cheers, motivated them with strive points and also explored the affective domain of teaching and learning.
The geo-referenced tablet is designed in line with the national curriculum. EKOEXCEL is not only structured to manage the classroom with inclusive units but also monitor every activity in the school, track the teachers from any part of the state due to the geographical positioning systems in the tablets and smartphones thereby eradicating teachers absenteeism and truancy.
Many public primary schools visited disclosed some facts about the EKOEXCEL programme in the state. Most of the head-teachers, teachers, pupils and even parents applauded the initiative but some have reservations about the implementations.
Titus Oluwasegun Faribido, a head-teacher saw EKOEXCEL initiative as a turnaround process to teaching and learning that has profited both the teachers, non-teaching staff, pupils and even parents in Lagos State.
“EKOEXCEL programme has created massive awareness to teaching and learning. The initiative equips teachers digitally, enhances punctuality, regularity and commitment to work among teachers and non-teaching staff as well,” he said.
Faribido stated that the programme has the tendency of arousing the interest to learn among pupils because of the use of songs to teach. And to parents, he noted that they are now hugely involved in the learning and teaching process of their children and wards.
Omole Esther, a head-teacher applauded the initiative, especially the new approach to transferring knowledge to pupils.
“Learning is now fun for the pupils, unlike before. Besides, it lessens the burdens of parents in terms of buying textbooks. EKOEXCEL supplies pupils with all the textbooks needed for their studies,” Omole said.
Rufai Hamzat, a teacher revealed that one of the benefits of EKOEXCEL programme to the teaching staff is the classroom management provisions it gives.
According to Hamzat, classrooms are easier managed with the EKOEXCEL, just with clapping of hands (twice) the pupils understand what the teacher wants from them (orderliness).
“Through character-boards, teachers can now manage the pupils better both morally and intellectually. The character board instils punctuality treats in pupils.
“Pupils now strive to come to class early because they know they will be celebrated for excellence; while the great work section, which is the academic side of the programme, brings out the best. Best performing pupils are always listed and celebrated, and this, in turn, brings about positive competitive spirit among the children,” he stated.
For Aromolarani Aderomi, a teacher, the programme enhances teaching skills and saves time in terms of lesson note preparations.
Alo Abosede, a teacher reiterated that EKOEXCEL comes with wonderful experiences in the teaching profession that improves teaching skills.
Most of the pupils expressed gratitude to the state government and the LASUBEB for introducing the initiative in the basic education sector which is the foundation of all learning.
Omojewe Hephzibah, a primary 6 pupil said EKOEXCEL is a good learning skills developer. While for Khadijat Abdullahi, a primary 4 pupil, the mainstream benefit of the programme is the coordination and discipline it brings to classrooms.
“There is now a better approach to discipline and control of classes by the teachers,” she stated.
Victor Osondu, a primary 6 pupil also affirmed that primary schools are now better coordinated and discipline is instilled through the EKOEXCEL initiative.
Usman Ajala expressed his joy with the Jolly phonics approach to learning which he said has made learning and teaching become fun.
For Matthew Esther, the character board is her delight, as it helps inculcate discipline and self-control in her.
“Character board checkmates what one does per time. It helps select the brilliant ones for celebration, and I always strive to be on the list, especially seeing my sibling being celebrated,” Esther said.
However, as good as the EKOEXCEL initiative may be, it is not without some shortfalls, which the end-users pointed out. Most of the teachers expressed their dismay that the end-users were not consulted in developing the programme, especially the tablets for teaching. Hence, according to them, the programme lacks some vital teaching planning.
For instance, the teachers noted that the manner the tablets were programmed does not allow the teachers any space of time to rest.
“The tablet is time-based, no time for breaks, and these results in other subjects being sacrificed for others.
“Once the pupils resume right from the assembly ground, the teaching staff has no privilege of time to rest his or her brain for the next class, and this brings about burning-out.”
Some teachers frowned at the EKOEXCEL programming for the toddlers which runs till 1 pm. The teachers are not comfortable with the arrangement because according to them, such an age group does not have the tenacity to stand long hours of teaching.
The teachers suggested that for such a cadre of pupils, their timing could be made to elapse by 10 or 11 am. The teachers argued that by the time these toddlers notice their older mates leaving schools around noon, they hardly pay attention to the teachings.
Some others complained of duplication of work that comes with EKOEXCEL. According to the teachers, after they might have digitally filled the register online, they are made to fill the hard-copy manually.
Moreover, the teachers frowned at the arrangement that demanded that after they had submitted filled registers to LASUBEB, the local government education management board would still insist they send the same reports to the board.
Hence, the teachers would think that both boards should be able to digitally network to avoid unnecessary duplicates of duty.
Some of the teachers were not comfortable with the tiny font sizes used in setting the letters on the tablets.
Another striking issue observed is that the tablets are programmed in such a way that the teachers cannot be able to effect any corrections in class works.All they are allowed to do is only to call out the answers, and according to the teachers, that is not detailed and good enough for impactful teaching delivery.
This article appeared originally on Business Day, Apr 4, 2022.