President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), Jasford Gabriel, is commending the Government for enabling the education system to adjust to online learning platforms, which has become necessary due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on traditional teaching and learning methods.
“We are pretty confident, from the standpoint of the JTA, that our teachers are far more equipped and comfortable in terms of conducting more engaging lessons online,” he said.
Speaking on ‘The Implications of COVID-19 on Education’ at a virtual meeting of the Rotary Club of Kingston on Thursday (September 10), Mr. Gabriel hailed the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information for rolling out the Google’s G Suite learning management system for schools.
“That is a major platform and the main platform that all schools would utilise. It is specifically designed for teaching and learning,” he noted.
He said that teachers are receiving the necessary training on the different tools in the programme and support is being provided for all schools.
The JTA President said the Education Ministry is also implementing a student content app, which includes various quizzes and examination papers, so that students can be better equipped as they prepare for external examinations.
“We appreciate this effort but it has to be ongoing,” he said, noting that all stakeholders must work to ensure that students who do not have access to online resources are not left behind.
Citing a recent United Nations Children Fund/Caribbean Policy Research Institute (UNICEF/CAPRI) study, Mr. Gabriel noted that since the closure of schools on March 13, only 32 per cent of students had good connection in terms of online instruction, 56 per cent had intermittent connection, and 11 per cent none at all.
“It is very apparent, based on what is happening in terms of the spike in COVID-19 and the trend we are seeing, that online instruction is the way to go, and so it’s very essential that we collaborate around this effort to make sure that we can reach all our students,” he said.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, at his swearing-in ceremony held at King’s House on Monday (September 7), pledged to improve broadband connectivity in public schools and expand the tablets in schools initiative, starting with the procurement of just over 100,000 for teachers and students “and then building beyond that number with creative solutions to focus on access for students in need”.
Mr. Holness said that all town centres will be serviced with free Wi-Fi, and it will be ensured that community access points (CAPS) have broadband/Wi-Fi access.
In addition, all schools will have broadband/Wi-Fi access and all major public-sector services that require applications will be accessible online.