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DEEP Impact: How ICT can improve teacher education

South African children around a computerThe scale of the demand and need for primary school teachers far outstrips existing provision. 

In pursuing the Millenium Development Goal of universal basic education, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa face particular challenges: over 40 million children of primary school age are without school experience and the numbers are growing. 

The Digital Education Enhancement Project (DEEP), part-funded by DFID, is an applied research project exploring the ways in which information and communications technology (ICT) can improve access to, and the quality of, teacher education in the global south.

What is DEEP all about?

Two African girls using hand-held computersThe Open University research project in the Eastern Cape, South Africa and Egypt is exploring what actually happens at classroom level when ICTs are introduced. 

It's looking at the ways in which ICT can improve teaching and learning through research on how ICTs change the way teachers teach and how pupils respond to ICT-enhanced teaching. 

In the Eastern Cape, poverty is severe in rural locations. The project teachers work in schools representative of the region as a whole; half have no telephone, one third no electricity and the majority have few if any resources and certainly no ICT provision. 

Most of the Eastern Cape teachers had never used an ICT before and many were working in communities with no conception of what a computer might be. Most of the teachers in the project are women and fall into the 35 - 45 age group.


"No one can ever believe that rural school educators can use computer technology the way we do. We are so confident and we are proud of ourselves."

Mandla Mngqibisa, project educator







Key findings

Cartoon image created by an educator at El Gameia el Masria Experimental Language School, to aid his teaching of mathematics.DEEP highlights the potential of ICTs for transforming teacher development and learning, as well as providing school-based professional support, in poor areas with limited resources. 

The project shows that the impact of using ICTs extends further than pupil achievement and enhanced classroom practice. Confidently using ICTs also benefits a teacher's professional identity and standing in the community. Other findings include:


  • Project teachers quickly developed confidence in using computers for a range of purposes 
  • ICT use extended teacher's professional knowledge by extending subject knowledge and by enabling more efficient planning and preparation for teaching 
  • Enabling new forms of teaching and learning: all teachers introduced ICT into planned lessons with their classes
  • Students showed improved learning and high levels of motivation in using ICTs. The confidence and positive engagement of girls was particularly striking. Improvements in literacy and science learning were reported by teachers, school principals and parents for both boys and girls
  • Teacher to teacher co-operation: Working together and sharing laptops can result in effective peer support, create more enthusiasm and ensure high levels of equipment usage
  • DFID gave 50,000 to this project between 2001 and 2004.

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