JIS News

In an effort to enhance the standard of education in secondary schools, the Ministries of Energy, Mining and Telecommunications, and Education have jointly embarked on an e-Learning Project.
The project seeks to utilize current state-of-the-art technology in Jamaican high schools to improve the quality of education delivered to students, enhancing their learning experience in the process, thereby improving the level of passes in the CXC/CSEC external exams.
This initiative is being co-ordinated by e-Learning Jamaica Company Limited, commonly referred to as e-Ljam, an agency of the Energy, Mining and Telecommunications Ministry. Chief Executive Officer/Project Manager of e-Ljam is Avrill Crawford.
The project will provide information and communications technology (ICT) skills training for some 11,000 teachers and lecturers in 186 learning institutions, comprising 166 government high schools, six public special schools, eight teacher training colleges, five community colleges, and one independent high school.
The training regimen is being undertaken by the HEART Trust/NTA, which has partnered with e-Ljam. On completion of training, participants who have attained the required competences will receive HEART’s National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training/National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica (NCTVET/NVQ-J) certification.
Teachers gaining certification will then be invited to attend technology integration residential workshops that will take them through areas such as blending and utilizing advanced teaching methodologies with their new competencies, the material, equipment, and web-based resources to transform the learning experience into an exciting one for the youngsters.
A pilot project involving some 31 institutions across the island is currently underway. The participating institutions include 26 high schools, one special school, two teacher’s colleges, and one independent high school, which will focus on five subject areas for students in grades 10 and 11. These are: English Language, Mathematics, Information Technology, Biology, and Chemistry.
A total of 334 teachers drawn from these institutions, who successfully participated in the training programme over the past four weeks, received their certificates during a graduation ceremony at the Mico College University on April 4.
Giving an overview, Chairman of e-Ljam, attorney-at-law, Ransford Braham says the overall project, of which the ICT skills training is one component was conceptualized in the early 2000s by the then Ministry of Commerce, Science, and Technology in order to address the increased demand for internet and other data related services.
“Together with the Ministry of Education, a project utilizing information and communication technologies was developed, and together with the support of the International Telecommunications Union, a study was conducted to determine the feasibility of the project,” Mr. Braham explains.
He says the project was approved for implementation in 2005 at a cost of US$50 million, funding for which was provided by the Universal Access Fund (UAF). The UAF is a limited liability company, incorporated in May 2005 in accordance with the Telecommunications Act of 2000, which commenced operations on June 1, 2005. The entity is a subsidiary of the Spectrum Management Authority, a telecommunications regulator, and was set up to collect and manages the service levy from telecommunications companies, on all international calls terminating in Jamaica. The e-Learning Jamaica Company Limited (e-Ljam) was also established in 2005 to oversee the initiative’s development.
The Chairman points out that several challenges arose while the feasibility study was being undertaken.
“One of the major constraints that arose was the lack of standard, high quality material for teachers to use in delivering instructions. And so, the major focus of the project is to provide ICT-based instructional material for teachers in 11 subjects. These materials will include: teacher guides, lesson plans, project assignments, power point presentations. and will be on various media – CDs, DVDs, web-base, and others, with complementary material for students, including learner guides,” Mr. Braham outlines. Students, he adds, will be able to borrow CDs and DVDs, in addition to a book from their school libraries.
In addition to these, Mr. Braham says test questions and answers are being developed by teachers in the project schools for students to practice as well as for teachers to pull questions from.
“Video lectures are (also) being produced for those difficult topics (so) that teachers can use them to complement their own lessons, and children can take (them) home and replay them on their computers or televisions; these will also be available on cable television,” he notes.
He advises that as the materials will be technology-based, the project will provide computers, audio visual equipment and networks to enable students and teachers to access them.
“The deployment of the equipment will allow optimum access for lesson planning and delivery, research, remedial work, and group collaborative work. Desktops (computers) and laptops will, therefore, be available for use in the staffroom, the library, and remedial lab.where children can progress at their own pace, and a mobile lab that can convert classrooms into group co-operative learning spaces,” Mr. Braham informs.
Presentation kits of a laptop and multimedia projector will also be given to grades 10 and 11 classes, with the teachers of each being able to access the internet as part of the classroom delivery process.
“Video cameras, document cameras, DVD players, televisions and scanners are all part of the plethora of equipment that schools are already receiving across the island,” he points out.
Mr. Braham says the delivery of material for the pilot subjects has commenced, pointing out that all project schools are expected to receive these by August 2008. “Of course, some 1,500 teachers and lecturers are being trained or have been trained in ICT skills,” the Chairman points out. The pilot programme is slated to end in August 2009.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy, Mining, and Telecommunications, Dr. Jean Dixon, has disclosed that the funds for the project have already been secured from the UAF. “We already have the money in the bank. We turned over to the Accountant General, just under $3.8 billion (equivalent of US$50 million), and the Accountant General will keep this money for the project,” she informs..
Dr. Dixon points out that the project is not restricted to ICT skills training, but incorporates other projects.
“Essentially, when the broadband infrastructure is rolled out in the country, any government institution that can accommodate persons at a counter to gain access to government and the wider world through the internet will be able to do so. It will also provide opportunities for entrepreneurs in various parts of the country to get onto the internet through the broadband and to offer services that will assist community development,” the Permanent Secretary outlines.
Chairman of the HEART Trust/NTA’s Project Steering Committee, Clover Barnett says the agency is more than excited to win the bid to offer training to the learning facilitators from the school system.
“The HEART Trust is extremely proud and pleased to be partnering with the e-learning project, as we believe that without proper technological tools, our teachers will not be able to be leaders of change and innovation in our classrooms and, ultimately, our nation,” she says.
President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), Ena Barclay, says the “vision for comprehensive integration of technology in our schools” will be embraced at all levels of the society.
“I am sure that leaders want to see high student achievement in their schools. The use of technological methodologies and the ability to integrate these into the delivery of instructions can only redound to the good of our students, since teachers will be able to cater to both the individual and diverse needs of students in the classrooms,” she notes.
Special Advisor to the Minister of Education, Ruel Reid, stresses the need to advance the competence and professionalism of teachers utilizing technology.
“It is all about differentiated instructions to ensure that every child can learn, and every child must learn. To educate, let us remind ourselves (that) it is to draw out the full potential of our students. That is what I would love to see us achieve from this technology, if we are to be a first world country by 2030,” Mr. Reid emphasizes.
The e-learning project’s resources for the 2008/09 fiscal year have been further strengthened through the allocation of $1.5 billion, set aside in this year’s Estimates of Expenditure, to facilitate its activities. This allocation will be channeled through the Universal Access Fund.