Social Networking is in fact a new term but not a new concept. Social networking exists since the old age through physical gatherings involving groups of persons with similar interests or commonalities. People used to exchange business cards and related details. Among the student population, social networking took the form of going out among friends, meeting for group work by students of different or same institutions and through the exchange of phone numbers. Taking things a step further, social networking existed through the concept of 'penfriends'.
In the digital era, social networking became a technology-enabled commodity, accessible to the digital natives and a luxury for those who can afford the costs of living in cyberspace but also an inhibitor to the inferiority or superiority complex that some people would have when they physically network in a social setting.
Social networking existing in the web 1.0 era mainly through chat based systems like IRC and in the web 2.0 era through interactive sites like facebook and blogs where persistent traces of interactions are kept. Indeed with globalisation and the emergence of www and the growing accessibility of the information superhighway, Mauritian students are greatly influenced by this new fashionable fabric of the digital society.
Social networking in itself can be a good concept but can be as bad as the so-called ‘peer pressure’ phenomenon that young adolescents face; a phenomenon that was once, and is still ‘cauchemardesque’ for many parents. Well, in that sense, nothing has really changed but indeed the accessibility to the so-called peer pressure phenomenon is much easier than ever.
Mauritian students especially young adults/adolescents are not aware of concepts of data protection yet, issues that can be to the detriment of their fundamentals rights to privacy, and other related issues that can have a negative social impact on their future life, and the pace that they adopt the social networking approach is frightening.
On the other hand, education can be and is still the key. Just as sex education in schools had been a taboo subject for long in our educational system and this has caused quite some turbulences in our society, a lack of education related to the living online can be a problem in the future.
Social networking can also be beneficial for the Mauritian student in the sense that sites like Google, YouTube, and Twitter amongst others can be of high educational added value when used in the form of a community of practice.
The important thing nowadays would be the appropriate weighing of the for and the against and the ability to reach a socially acceptable compromise for the social networking culture that has always existed in limited form but which has expanded in a borderless unlimited field of action.
The Educational Sector in Mauritius
The education system in Mauritius is mostly based on the British system since Mauritius was a former British colony. The educational sector in Mauritius can be divided into four main categories namely:
- Secondary and
- Tertiary education.
Pre-primary education starts at the age of 3 years and is provided by both government and private aided schools.
Primary Education starts at the age of 6 years and in order to complete the primary education one needs to pass a national examination; the Certificate of Primary Education (CPE). The government runs the majority of the schools and the rest are under the administration of the Roman Catholic Education Authority, Hindu Education Authority and Private non-aided schools.
The secondary sector is divided into secondary academic and pre-vocational schools. These are state administered schools or private aided and non-aided schools.
When students finish Form IV they need to take an O-level examination. After completing the O-level and Form VI (i.e. 7 years of study) students take part in A-level examination. Both O-level and A-level examinations are carried out by the University of Cambridge.
Tertiary education consist of a wide range of institutions with different characteristics. The tertiary education also extends beyond the local tertiary institutions given that a significant number of Mauritian students either go overseas or resort to the open learning mode to pursue their studies. The tertiary sector in Mauritius consists mainly of these institutions:
Table showing statistics for the Educational Sector in Mauritius for the Year 2008
| Education Sector
| No. of Institutions
| No. of Students Enrolled
| Secondary (academic& pre-vocational)
| 9 (local & public funded)
For the purpose of this article, the study will be focused on the secondary and tertiary sector only. Though some students in the primary sector are exposed to social networking most of them do not actively participate in social networking sites as compared to those students in the secondary and tertiary sector.
Thus, this article will present an overview of the popularity of social networking among students and compare how secondary and tertiary students are using it. The students that will be considered will be those who are studying in any local institution secondary and tertiary.
A survey was carried out in order to gather necessary information regarding the popularity and the uses of Social Networking among Mauritian students. A sample population of 150 students (both from tertiary and secondary) were targeted to complete a semi-structured questionnaire for analysis; out of which 134 students responded.