A. Cyriaano1, R. Osman2

1Middlesex University (UNITED KINGDOM)
2University of Bradford (UNITED KINGDOM)
In acknowledging a digital divide that separates resources and skill sets of most African countries from others, traditional higher educational institutions and the wave of IT institutes that have sprung up across Africa, are continuously churning out graduates with computer science and information technology qualifications. These qualifications are based on the structured implementation of a generic curriculum using internationally adopted textbooks and methods. These curricula, usually designed in advanced countries, have been formulated based on experiences and methods that have been applied and proven in the context of far more industrialised societies. Recent research work has begun to highlight the issues with adopting such curricula in general, and in the context of underdeveloped and developing countries: contextualisation. For students in these countries in general, and Africa in particular, the textbooks with accompanying examples and scenarios, provide a foreign and sometimes unrelated bias, that will later have to be applied to local projects and problems. This antiquated formula of gaining a qualification renders students’ learning experiences incomplete: they are ill-equipped for their local markets. The scope of the skill set of students in Africa therefore has to transcend the international standards and practices as provided in their study literature, by incorporating local computer science knowledge – examples, case studies, peoples and experiences, in order to present a localized and contextualized curriculum to prepare students with the requisite knowledge for their respective environments.

In this paper, we present an overview of the research related to computer science and IT education in tertiary institutions in Africa. With both of us having studied in Africa, specifically Ghana and Sudan, as well as in developed countries such as the United Kingdom and Denmark, this collaboration stands us in good stead to provide a wholesome perspective on the learning experience on both sides of the divide. We argue for the need of a more localized curriculum, evidenced by relevant and appropriately suited contexts. This is an area of growing research interest and whilst previous authors have discussed agendas relating to contextualisation, to the best of our knowledge, none have advocated for the direct incorporation and collection of local computer and IT experiences in the curriculum. One objective of this paper is to gauge the momentum behind the agenda discussed within it and provide a forum for debate. The paper also presents the research plan, from reviewing current practices, through the collation of evidence for potential use in a computer science curriculum, identifying stakeholders to engage with, in addition to the methods to be used.

With education being identified as a key differentiator in the fight against poverty etc, it is crucial that the content of education is useful, relevant and appropriate to the learner. In acknowledging that computer science students should be well equipped for the international market, they should, without doubt, be well prepared to tackle the idiosyncrasies of their own environments.