JIS News

The E-Learning Jamaica Company Limited is accepting bids for the provision of 30,000 tablet computers for schools under the pilot phase of the Government’s School Tablet Computer Programme.

The pilot is scheduled to commence at the start of the 2013/14 academic year in September, and will culminate in June 2014.

Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Minister, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, made the disclosure in an interview with JIS News on Wednesday, July 3, after addressing a graduation ceremony at the New Forest Primary, Junior High and Infant School in Manchester.

He informed that E-Learning Jamaica, an agency of the Ministry, put the project to tender last week for a period of 30 days, and is currently inviting bids from suppliers, via advertisements.

Mr. Paulwell said apart from providing the tablets, the Ministry is also seeking submissions from suppliers capable of fulfilling stipulated specifications.

“We have, for example, the issue of disabling the tablets, if stolen. We also are going to ensure that the device can be tracked. All of those features will have to be in the bids that people submit to the E-Learning Company. Of course, it’s an open, transparent process, anybody can bid, and we expect to get very good equipment at very good prices,” the Minister outlined.

Students and teachers at some 35 shortlisted early childhood, primary, and secondary institutions will benefit from the tablets, being provided free of cost, as part of the administration’s efforts to enhance education through technology.

This move is expected to, among other things, eliminate the need for textbooks, thereby reducing the associated costs, as well as ensure that no child misses any tutorial, due to absence from school.

The initial 30,000 tablets form part of approximately 400,000, which the Ministry aims to allocate to all government schools island-wide over the next five years.

Mr. Paulwell advised that the pilot phase will be assessed and analysed, and the results used to guide full implementation of the project, anticipated for the 2014/15 academic year and will benefit all students from pre-primary to secondary institutions.

For the full roll out, disabled students as well as those on the Programme for Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), will receive the tablets free of cost, however, for other students, “there will have to be some cost recovery from the parents, especially because we are substantially cutting the cost to them,” Mr. Paulwell said.

The Minister, in his earlier address at the graduation ceremony, urged parents to support the Ministry, in this regard.

“We are going to ask, those of you, who can assist, (to do so) because remember some of you pay $15,000 and $20,000 for books…you’re not going to have to pay that anymore. So if you are asked to pay, for the year…about $5,000 for your own tablet for the advancement of your youngster…that (won’t) be (such a bad proposition),” he said.

Minister Paulwell urged parents and guardians to assist in ensuring that children remain focused on learning. He said reports from countries that have gone this route, show that the first year of the project is often “difficult” as students get distracted by games and so on, and the results “are not so good.”

He noted, however, that students begin to record “amazing” results and performances by the second or third year after receiving tablets.

“So we know that, in time to come, we are going to see tremendous improvement in the performance of our youngsters. But for the first year, you have to help us to make sure that the children are not distracted and that the aim of the programme is fulfilled. What we want to do is create in our Jamaican students an inquisitive mind… a mind that is trying to get as much information to solve the problems,’ he stated.

Mr. Paulwell said that parents, whose children will benefit under the pilot “will have to go through an orientation; you have to understand fully, what this is all about,” adding that along with what occurs at school, “there has to be some supervision, as well, at home.”

“And so, we are not going to, come the 1st of September, hand deliver the computer/tablets to the children…the parents will have to be present,” Mr. Paulwell advised, noting that there has been positive feedback to the initiative.

Contact: Douglas McIntosh