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One child laptop project makes positive impact on children

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THE One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) trials in Western Province is having a positive impact on children there.

This was stated in a report on the evaluation of the programme, which was released recently and was now with the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development.

The evaluation indicates that the impact of the OLPC programme was “very positive”.

A grade 3 student at Sombiro Primary school in Marovo puts it: “I use the laptop to help me learn more things”.

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) was commissioned by the ministry to undertake an evaluation of the OLPC trial in three schools in Marovo Lagoon.

Solomon Islands is the first country which designed an evaluation framework for the OLPC in the Pacific Region. 

An evaluation was considered very important in order to take well informed decisions about expansion of the project, the approach, its sustainability and the financial and technical support. 

The key objectives of the framework relate to raising awareness about the project and assessing impact in a range of areas. 

ACER’s evaluation has focused in particular on the impact of the OLPC programme on teaching and learning, while also considering the other objectives stated in the framework.

The evaluation was conducted in September 2009 and consists mainly of interviews with teachers, students, parents and community members, together with a questionnaire distributed to a small number of MEHRD officers and other OLPC personnel. 

The key purpose of the evaluation was to identify the impact of the OLPC programme and its strengths and weaknesses as implemented in the three schools. 

On the basis of the information gathered, ACER identified the improvements and recommendations contained in the report. 

The OLPC programme is based on the concept of providing low cost and durable laptops to children in developing countries. 

The intention of the OLPC program is to encourage learning by engaging students in a range of educational activities via their own laptop. 

These activities are installed on the laptops prior to deployment and this content can be used as it is by teachers, adapted to suit local needs, or supplemented by wholly local content. 

The OLPC is one of three programmes carried out under the Pacific Plan Digital Strategy with the support of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Three trial projects began in July 2008. 

The schools in the trial were Sombiro, Batuna and Patukae Primary Schools in Marovo, Western Province. 

The evaluation was carried out over two months in late 2009. Local interviewers were trained in workshop sessions as part of the evaluation. 

Interviews were conducted with students, parents, teachers and community members. 

Consistent interview questions, tailored for each group, were used. 

The evaluation indicated that the impact of the OLPC program has been very positive. 

The evidence to date indicates that it has largely met the objectives of the programme as outlined in the framework.

This is despite some of the important questions to what extent the OLPC has contributed to higher enrolment and to positive impact on teaching and learning could not be measured completely as no base line data were collected to compare before and after OLPC-situation. 

However, parents, students, teachers and community members see major benefits in the programme. 

MEHRD officers also see clear potential benefits for schools. 

The provision of the laptops has been greatly appreciated as a step in improving learning for students. 

This appreciation was repeatedly expressed in interviews. 

The report highlighted that while there have been some difficulties of a technical nature, such as battery charging of the machines in some instances, the new technology has been embraced by the schools and communities. 

The report recommended that the programme will be strengthened by the provision of more technical and preferably local support, by further training for teachers, and by training for parents and community members with an ongoing programme of training, monitoring and evaluation also important. 

Based on the positive outcome of the report the Ministry of Education is now focusing on the way forward.