The opening of schools across the island on Monday, October 5, will take place as planned. This is the word from the Hon. Fayval Williams, Minister of Education, who made the announcement during a live Press Conference on Tuesday, September 21.
She announced that the Re-opening will comprise three platforms: The Online Learning Management System (OLMS), TV, Cable and Radio; as well as through the use of Printed Materials.
The Minister made this announcement against a background of concerns recently expressed by a number of Principals and representatives from the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), who feel that “face to face” teaching should be postponed for now, because of a COVID 19 Pandemic.
Three Learning Platforms
In giving details of the Schools’ Reopening Roll Out, Minister Williams said that the OLMS will allow students to stay home and access classes. Recorded lessons will also be available for access.
The second platform comes from TV, cable and radio productions, which will run for 24 hours, daily. This is a collaboration between the Education Ministry, TVJ, CVM and Ready TV.
The other platform is printed material. The Education Ministry has developed workbooks that will be dropped off and retrieved, at agreed locations. This will facilitate students who require close supervision, including exam students who live in remote locations with little or no Internet access.
Regarding online learning, the Ministry has so far trained some 20,000 teachers to use the platform. This training has been facilitated by a combination of local and overseas universities. At the same time, the Education Ministry has purchased devices for 25,000 teachers, and is footing the cost for students and teachers using the online platform.
The Ministry is also exploring the use of community centres, and church buildings, to allow student access to Internet.
Another Ministry move, is finalising policies regarding payment plans to buy “chrome books” (laptop & tablet combined). Apart from digital devices, textbooks will be distributed to schools, and these will also be available electronically.
Do Not Deny Your Children
Regarding the purchase of digital devices by parents for their children, Minister Williams emphasized, that parents should use funds that normally would be used to pay school administrative costs, to instead buy these tablets. According to the Minister, the children should not be denied access to education because of financial challenges.
ELearning is responsible for distributing these devices, and students benefitting from PATH will be given priority. The Ministry is also providing financial support to Early Childhood Institutions, for sanitization and learning purposes.
Additionally, private school teachers and support staff, are to receive “one-off” payments in lieu of salary deficiencies caused by the COVID 19 Pandemic from the Ministry.
The Minister used the opportunity, to remind the nation, that Jamaica’s Education sector is in crisis, following a meeting with the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission (JETC). She said that it is therefore urgent to resume formal education.
High Failure Rate
Minister Williams reported that of 32, 617 students who sat the recent CXC Examinations, only 9,234 passed five or more subjects, which included English and Mathematics. Of this number, 66% were males failing Mathematics, 57% failing Science, 55% failing Language Arts, and 50% failing Social Studies.
While the failure rate for the girls is less, she noted that the results were still poor, as 51% failed Mathematics, 44% failed the Sciences, 35% failed Language Arts and 37% failed Social Studies.