• Sserwanga J. Vianney

Challenges of implementing ICT systems to manage the New Lower Secondary Curriculum

Background


The lower secondary curriculum was overhauled and completely changed to a competency-based rather than grade/marks based. This implies that any experience in managing the old curriculum is no longer applicable. This also means that we are supposed to break with the past and start over again in school systems of management, teaching, learning and reporting to school stakeholders, especially parents and guardians.



The differences resulting from this revolutionary change in lower secondary education are extreme.


Therefore to embark on the new curriculum, the school should embrace the best principles of Change Management. Change Management is a systematic approach to dealing with the transition or transformation of an organization’s goals, processes or technologies. The purpose of change management is to implement strategies for effecting change, controlling change and helping people to adapt to change. A school may need to establish Change Management Committee to go about the changes.


Whereas the old curriculum could be conducted without using ICT tools, the new one can only be conducted with the help of advanced ICT tools, both software and hardware.


Challenges of implementing ICT systems to manage the New Lower Secondary Curriculum


1. Legacy systems


In computing, a legacy system is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program, “of, relating to, or being a previous or outdated computer system,” yet still in use.


From that definition, a school is considered to be using legacy systems if;

  • A school system is standalone and thus offline, i.e. not connected to the internet.

  • Its mode of managing the curriculum focuses on marks only.

  • It can only generate a single page report card.

  • The only means of delivering report cards is by printing them out to hardcopies without an online option.

  • A system doesn’t provide user accounts to parents and students.

  • A system can’t be integrated to share data with other service providers such as those for school fees collection, bulk SMS, and UNEB.

  • A system that can’t cope with new curriculum operation regulatory guidelines.

  • A system that tries to incorporate some features of the old curriculum into the new curriculum (because old habits die hard).

  • A system that can’t work or be accessed on all modern computer gadgets such as smartphones.

  • The system that forces the school to have and maintain its own servers at the school premises.

A school that fails to replace such systems is failing on the new curriculum change management. The change management committee should consider a system;

  • That doesn’t restrict users to a specific place and is thus accessible from anywhere.

  • That has parents' and students' user accounts to ease the distribution of reports and for parents to follow what is happening to their children at school.

  • That satisfactorily implements the NCDC curriculum operation guidelines.

  • That makes reporting on every topic completed possible as the term progresses.

  • That saves school printing resources by delivering the multiple pages reports online.

  • That allows each teacher to keep records in the process of covering a topic through their accounts with the help of their smartphones.

  • That integrates with other service providers for smooth school operations.

Therefore as one of the activities of change management to implement the new curriculum, the school management should consider this as a critical step regardless of how much they have already invested in the current systems deployed.


2. Technical debt


In software development, technical debt is the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer. Compared with a money debt, if technical debt is not repaid, it can accumulate “interest”, making it harder to implement changes.


From that definition, schools are currently rushing to find and deploy easy ICT systems to manage the new curriculum as a quick fix even if they don’t meet the recommended NCDC guidelines. By doing that, the schools are incurring a terrible technical debt that’s going to cost them much more as time passes yet still however much more is invested, such systems shall still fail to meet the acceptable requirements.


How to know that by deploying a certain ICT system, a school is incurring a technical debt?

  • When the system has features of a legacy system described in challenge number one above.

  • A service provider tries to meet the school system requirements even if they are in violation of the NCDC curriculum operation guidelines.

  • When a service provider is not well conversant with the new lower secondary curriculum and the NCDC mandate.

  • When a service provider has a bias that the new curriculum may fail and the ministry of education resorts back to the old one.

  • When the school mainly focuses on the cost of the system to choose a service provider.

The school change management committee should look out for such indicators to prevent the school from incurring a technical debt that shall cost the school much more in the near future as they try to fix the system.

 

Conclusion

The schools that get the right computer system at the onset, are going to introduce new schools of influence that may even replace the traditionally performing schools based on the old curriculum. Resisting changing the computer system is equivalent to resisting the effective implementation of the new curriculum. If a school has nowhere to start, the dotShule school management system can be a good starting point.


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