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The Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture has partnered with Microsoft Corporation to establish the Partners in Learning (PiL) Programme, a five-year project that will see the computer software conglomerate providing $16 million in training, technical support and access to technology for Jamaican teachers and students.
Delivering the keynote address at the launch of the PiL Programme today (May 26), at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston, Minister of State in the Ministry, Dr. Donald Rhodd said the collaboration marked “a quantum leap in the right direction for all parties involved in the education system – our educators, our students, and other stakeholders”.
Outlining some of the objectives of the collaborative programme, the State Minister explained that the agreement would provide students and teachers at schools selected to participate in the programme, with access to current versions of such popular Microsoft products as Windows upgrade and the Microsoft Office Professional, which includes Microsoft publisher, all at affordable prices.
As part of the PiL Programme, Microsoft has established an Information Technology (IT) Academy at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI). The academy is an annual membership programme that delivers technology training for teachers and students in schools, colleges and universities.
Dr. Rhodd said through subscription to this programme, which Microsoft offered in many developed countries across the world, “institutions can offer Microsoft courses leading to Microsoft certification that will expand their ICT skills, and through which students can expand their career and pursue further educational prospects”.
The programme is designed to prepare students for careers as network administrators, software developers, design engineers, help desk technicians and Microsoft Office specialists as well as ICT education integrators.
In addition to the existing IT academy at UWI, discussions are also underway to establish another academy at HEART Trust/NTA.
Dr. Rhodd said that currently, Microsoft was collaborating with the Education Ministry to train educators and teachers as potential ‘teacher trainers’, based on programmes designed jointly and to be implemented by the Ministry, UWI, HEART/NTA and Microsoft.
The first cadre of 28 primary and secondary school teachers to be trained in Microsoft certification has almost concluded, while plans for the training of the next cadre is now underway.
“Successful participants will cascade this training to other teachers in the system. Information Technology CXC teachers will be especially targeted for the next round of Microsoft Office certification in Microsoft Office specialist,” the State minister said.
In her address, Microsoft’s Academic Programme Manager for Public Sector Education in the Caribbean and Central American region, Myrna Pinto said Microsoft was trying to be proactive in addressing the needs of developing nations, whose citizenry were not technologically competent.
“We live in a world where the skills needed to succeed are changing faster than ever, yet for many people there is no easy way to gain new skills, particularly past graduating. That is an awful lot of potential going to waste and it undermines communities and economies around the world, so we are trying to do something to bridge this digital divide,” Miss Pinto informed.
“In fact, Microsoft has already been helping communities to address these challenges for the past 20 years, working around the world to promote greater access to technology tools and training,” she added.To date, Microsoft has donated $1.4 billion in cash and software, working with such partners as government, educational entities, non-profit organisations, and companies.
She explained that through the PiL Programme, “we are trying to empower teachers in the schools by helping them get the latest computer technology at the lowest possible cost and offering them the training they need to make the most of these new technologies”. Miss Pinto emphasised that the programme represented a long-term commitment from Microsoft to partner with the teachers. “We want to help schools that are in need, to really establish a 21st Century foundation for educational learning,” she said.