WikiAfrica Primary School Feasibility Study is the first step of the WikiAfrica Primary School, a project aiming at giving students, teachers and families access on Wikipedia to all the documentation needed to obtain the primary school degree of their country, in the language of instruction.
The feasibility study looks at Wikipedia and primary schools. Its purpose is to establish a baseline report of the state of Wikipedia languages and of primary school education in three counties to date. The reports are meant to define ways in which Wikipedia could contribute to the issues currently at play in the primary education landscape and to design the WikiAfrica Primary School project accordingly. The study is divided into:
Introduction specifically related to the WikiAfrica Primary School project.
Wikipedia. A presentation of the overall situation of the Wikipedia projects in all the languages used in the African countries’ school systems, by taking into consideration the number of articles produced as of October 8, 2012 (beginning of the assessment process) and as of November 8, 2012 (end of the assessment process). Then, a more accurate quality assessment has been conducted on three projects: English, French, and Italian Wikipedia.
Primary school. A presentation of the primary school systems in Italy, South Africa and Cameroon. Those three countries have been chosen for the diversity of their school systems and because they will be a focus of the WikiAfrica Primary School project in 2013. In particular the case study about Italy analyses the relevance of digital content for primary education,
interculture and lifelong learning; the case study about South Africa observes the peculiarity of the South African system (the post-apartheid emphases on education, 11 languages, the situation of schoolbooks and infrastructures and the challenges in evaluating and improving the system).
Italian primary school curricula. This session presents content and skills related to primary school in Italy and their potential links to Wikipedia articles. This session is specifically important to define the articles and topics the Primary School project will focus on.
Best practices and reports from interviews.
The feasibility study is already designed as a contribution to Wikipedia; its sessions are structured as Wikipedia articles, they are under Creative Commons attribution-share alike, and they focus on:
Wikimedia educational projects
Wikipedia and the African languages
Primary school in Italy
Primary school in South Africa
Primary school in Cameroon
This feasibility study was developed in three months with the involvement of four researchers and a group of advisers interviewed within the study. It was supported by lettera27 Foundation.
The WikiAfrica Primary School Feasibility Study produced a quality and quantitative assessment of Wikipedia editions in the languages used for instruction in Africa and three case studies about primary school in Italy, South Africa and Cameroon. Below a list of the key findings specifically related to the WikiAfrica Primary School project.
Primary school education is at the centre of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in particular in goal n. 2 and 3. MDG are linked to the “Education for All” (EFA) programme led by UNESCO. The 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Reports stats that “on current trends, the goal of universal primary education (UPE) will be missed by a large margin”.
In November 2012 UNICEF released a study that forecast a 4% increase in the global population of children by 2025. By 2050 “1 in every 3 births – almost 1 in every 3 children under 18 – will be African”. In some Sub-Saharan African countries, the population of school-aged children will double between 2010 and 2025.
Primary school constitutes the ground for the development of personality. It aims to enact literacy and to offer an essential contribution to understand the complex reality everybody lives in and to be part of it as a citizen. In primary school pupils acquire and apply knowledge and skills, and disciplines are means to achieve educational goals rather than simple set of notions.
Primary school provides access to higher education and to a workplace, as it provides the basic skills to engage in entrepreneurship.
Content and skills related to primary school do not refer to children only. It is essential to consider also adult education, lifelong learning and the opportunity to develop and maintain skills. It is also important to mention the specific challenges related to mobility, migration and learning in a new language.
Primary school programs indicate skills that students must achieve. According to countries, the curriculum is set nationally or it is left up to teachers to choose the content and specific education curricula.
The key competences necessary for personal fulfilment, active citizenship, social cohesion and employability in a knowledge society and identified by the European Union are 1) communication in the mother tongue; 2) communication in foreign languages; 3) mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology; 4) digital competence; 5) learning to learn; 6) social and civic competences; 7) sense of initiative and entrepreneurship; 8) cultural awareness and expression.
Primary school lasts from 5 to 9 years according to each country. In South Africa, primary school is split according to curricular focus between Foundation Phase (from gradeR to grade 3 - 4 years) and Intermediate Phase (from grade 4 to 7); but there is no division within the school.
Teachers are at the core of the learning process. Digital tools and any tool need to be part of the everyday teaching practices, otherwise they will remain isolated, provisional and ineffective.
All primary schools have assessment tools to monitor and evaluate learning levels (certificates, metrics).
We can approximately state that the languages used for instruction in Africa are 35 (considering official and permitted languages). In realty, in particular in the first years of primary school, children start learning in the language they speak (the so-called local languages); if we count all those languages, the languages used for instruction in Africa are far more than 35.
51 out of 54 counties use English, French, Portuguese and Spanish, both as the only or as one of the permitted languages; Ethiopia uses Amharic and several regional languages; Libya and Sudan use Arabic only. French, English and Arabic are the three dominant languages, respectively used in 26, 24 and 12 countries.
There are 285 linguistic editions of Wikipedia; 32 of the 35 languages used for instruction in Africa have a Wikipedia edition. Seychellois Creole (used in the Seychelles), Luba (used in Congo DR) and and Southern Ndebele (used in South Africa and Zimbabwe) do not have a Wikipedia edition. Southern Ndebele has a test running since 2009 on Wikipedia Incubator with only one article written.
Looking at Wikipedia editions in the languages used for instruction in Africa, only English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese have over 750,000 articles; Arabic has almost 200,000. Between October 8th and November 8th, the growing rate of those editions is between 3,000 and 23,000 articles; the other editions have a rate between 30 and 378 articles (Afrikaans and Swahili Wikipedias have the most significant growing rates). Only Malagasy and Yoruba Wikipedias have over 30,000 articles but a very limited growing rate (-1 and +53). Those data summarise the current state and hierarchy of Wikipedia editions.
23 national languages and other regional languages are specifically used for adult education, informal education and in the first years of primary school. In many countries children start their education in their own language; another national language is added since the early years and used consistently for further education.
The skills acquired in the first years of education are essential for the entire educational career of children. In South Africa teachers are not always comfortable in teaching in the secondary national language; this gap has major repercussions on the entire educational career of children.
Primary school curricula focuses on literacy and numeracy. Knowledge provided needs to be meaningful to the pupils’ own lives. Content is therefore related to life skills (as the South African system calls it); it strongly focuses on citizenship and it fosters the capacity of understanding the complex reality of the world (geography, history, natural sciences, languages, mathematics and technology). In Cameroon work practices are included in the curricula (agriculture, animal husbandry, poultry, brick laying, carpentry...)
In primary school it is essential to provide a balance between local, national and international content. Children need to acquire an awareness of different scales of knowledge and their connections. In Cameroon, the experience of doual’art within the project Douala Ville d’Art et d’Histoire has showed the need of primary school for content that is related to local history. The South African curricula for primary education has strongly developed a focus on local and national history at the expense of a broader international focus; teachers have expressed the need of providing students with a broader sense of the world history. In Italy, the way society has drastically changed in the last decades has highlighted the need of a stronger intercultural and inclusive approach to knowledge.
Schoolbooks are not available to all students. The case studies of South Africa and Cameroon present the severity of the situation, and it is reasonable to presume that the problem is consistent in other African counties.
Teachers require additional training and teaching materials in order to develop effective content and enable primary schools to reach their full potential.
There are hardly any OER Open Education Resources aimed at primary school. OER rather focuses on secondary school and university.
Publishers are a major stakeholder in the control of textbooks and its business. Alternative models exists and teachers and NGOs have a major role in developing those teaching materials and new textbooks.
The experience of the offline distribution of Wikipedia implemented in Kenya within the project Wikipedia for Schools showed that the content of Wikipedia in English distributed in thirty Kenyan high schools was welcomed but it did not offered content sufficiently linked to the Kenyan school curriculum. Students requested content more specifically linked to their curricula.
Wikipedia has a quality assessment process. According to the guidelines the best Wikipedia articles should meet the polities regarding content and have to be well-written, comprehensive, well-researched, neutral and stable. Furthermore, they have to have a concise lead section that summarises the topic and prepares the reader for the detail in the subsequent sections, and an appropriate structure with a substantial but not overwhelming table of contents. The article’s length should be appropriate so that it “stays focused on the main topic without going into unnecessary detail” and be illustrated with appropriate and sufficient media. The Wikipedia Quality Assessment projects have developed independent and collaborative evaluations systems. Featured articles and quality articles ratings are assigned through a community procedure. The overall impression is that Wikipedia in English presents an average of qualitatively better articles and that Wikipedia gives better performances on articles on specific subjects, than in general, introductory ones on a particular subject.
Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia and it is meant to provide general information on a subject. It is not a schoolbook and it is requires a certain degree of literacy to be read and understood. Thanks to their license, Wikipedia content can be republished, adapted and reuse for new and different purposes.
Wikipedia presents an over-representation of the so-called Western-based subjects and an under-representation of the subjects related to the so-called “Global South”.
The way articles are evaluated by Wikipedians and the way they are judged by teachers or from an educational perspective do not necessary correspond.
The quality of Wikipedia articles needs to be assessed and verified also outside Wikipedia and collaborative processes.
WikiAfrica Cameroon is currently verifying the possibility of uploading on the Internet the recent test of the primary school degree with included the solutions.
ICT is a tool to access and share information, to “learn to learn” and to have fun while learning; it can also provide new and different interfaces and learning experiences. On the other hand ICT is a distraction, a tool which produces new pidgins, a resource under-exploited in the field of education and not necessarily a better interface than traditional printed textbooks. ICT is also closely linked to resources, infrastructures and the decision making processes and stakeholders.
Technology-driven innovation needs to be a practice-driven innovation to situate it in our lived experience. School can help to understand how technologies work rather than teach how to use them. Wikipedia needs to taught as something to review, edit and write in, rather than to look at. This process is linked to media literacy, it allows appropriation and it develops critical thinking.
South Africa has released its White Paper on e-Education in 2004; as the South Africa case study reports, computers though remain in the office and are used for administrative support and the ICT in Education survey reports in 2010 that only 6% of classrooms have computers connected to the Internet and used by learners who do CAT (Computer Application Technology) as a subject.
In September 2013 Italy starts its digital textbooks project (Decreto Crescita 2.0).
Wikipedia is provided for free on smartphones in 18 countries of Africa and Middle East by Orange mobile phone company.
Wikipedia can be provided also offline. In particular in 2012 a new Kiwix-USB plug has been developed by Kiwix and Wikimedia France.
In Sub-Saharan Africa there is a strong lack of trained teachers (in 2010 the pupil/teacher ratio was 43:1) and over-crowded classrooms. The South Africa case study also reports data from Value in the Classroom: the quantity and quality of South Africa’s teachers (Centre for Development and Enterprise September 2011) which states that educators do not work regular hours, there is poor attendance and do not use their time efficiently.
The South Africa case study also presents the challenges of school infrastructures; shortage of books, teaching materials, support and administrative staff; not all schools have access to running water, electricity or toilets; insufficient access for pupils to nutrition and sexual assault and violence in school is on rise; a significant number of children are in grades that do not reflect their age; students are often not able to complete homework due to household chores being seen as higher priority; the impact of HIV is significant and debilitating. It is reasonable to presume that those problems might be consistent in other African counties.
Primary school education in Cameroon is free since 2000, but families must pay for uniforms, book fees, and sometimes even anti-malaria prophylaxis for pupils.
Primary schools are not only an infrastructure for school, but also – potentially – for communities and their surrounding territories.
Education is an ecosystem involving many stakeholders: organisations, public institutions, local communities, school infrastructures, projects, individual initiatives... Due to the complexity of this ecosystem, people who are part of it are often unaware of the scenario they operate in and they do not benefit from best practices and the opportunity of relate to other people and organisations. A project on Wikipedia should also provide access to this information.
According to the key findings of the WikiAfrica Primary School Feasibility Study the
WikiAfrica Primary School project will be structured as following.
The project works with two main approaches
Online approach. The online approach focuses on producing content for Wikipedia.
Territorial approach. The territorial approach focuses on testing and enhancing the use of Wikipedia in primary school. The territorial approach collaborates with the educational ecosystem.
The project is developed between 2013-2015.
The project focuses on 56 African countries (all African nations, including Western Sahara and Sud Sudan). Italy is included in the project for a pilot testing of its online methodology. In 2013 the territorial approach focuses on Cameroon and South Africa.
The online content are developed through a “Wikipedia Scientific Journal”, a peer-reviewed scientific publication in Creative Commons attributions share-alike designed to collect and assess the content related to the project.
The focus on primary school corresponds to a focus on knowledge taught in the first 4-6 years of education.
Content produced within WikiAfrica Primary School project for Wikipedia focuses on articles about countries, educational systems and a selection of general articles (geography, history, natural sciences, languages, mathematics and technology). The selection of articles is made by a scientific committee composted of experts in education, teachers and wikipedians. WikiAfrica Primary School project also contributes to Wikidata with datasets about African municipalities.
The project targets primarily teachers and educators.
The project uses and fosters the development of OER Open educational Resources for primary schools.
The project produces and fosters the development of articles in 35 languages used for instruction in Africa plus Italian.
We expect to assess 100 articles and to foster the development of a total of 2,500 articles; 35 languages used for instruction in Africa plus Italian will be represented. We expect to involve in the project partners in 9 countries between 2013 and 2015.
It is important to state that WikiAfrica Primary School is a project focused on Wikipedia that targets primary school; not the other way around.
The WikiAfrica Primary School Feasibility Study was produced in 2012 within the frame of WikiAfrica, a cross-continental collaboration that aims to increase the quantity and quality of African content on the world’s most referenced online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. WikiAfrica is promoted by lettera27 Foundation and the Africa Centre and it was initiated by lettera27 Foundation in 2006.
WikiAfrica Primary School Feasibility Study was directed by Iolanda Pensa; WikiAfrica project manager for lettera27 Cristina Perillo; WikiAfrica project manager for the Africa Centre Isla Haddow-Flood; WikiAfrica scientific direction Iolanda Pensa. The WikiAfrica Primary School Feasibility Study was made possible thanks to volunteers and the support of lettera27 Foundation. WikiAfrica Primary School Feasibility Study is under Creative Commons attribution share alike license. WikiAfrica, 2012.