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Minister of Housing, Transport, Water and Works, Robert Pickersgill, has said that governments in the region were committed to promoting open learning, noting that the process was “vital to positioning our people for international competitiveness”.
“In Jamaica, as elsewhere, laying the foundation for capitalising on the opportunities for open and distance learning, driven by new technology, has (made) significant strides in dismantling monopolistic arrangements within the telecommunications sector,” he said at the opening of the Pan Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning yesterday (Oct. 31), at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios.
According to Minister Pickersgill, Jamaica’s commitment to expanding the Internet infrastructure, had resulted in measurable achievements in establishing mechanisms to enable Caribbean educational institutions to deliver quality programmes, to an even wider population and with greater cost efficiency.
Despite these advances, Minister Pickersgill said, the demand for Internet access on the island was low when compared to developed countries and some regional neighbours.
“Our strategy to address this anomaly has been to significantly increase the use of the internet in schools, thus exposing students and their parents to a technology based culture,” he pointed out, citing the US$50 million E-learning project, which was implemented in high schools in September. The three-year project, he explained, was aimed at enhancing the quality of teaching and learning at the secondary level.
“Our current e-learning thrust will include providing some 100 of our public libraries as well as those secondary level classrooms not presently equipped, with computers and Internet access.and to upgrade those secondary schools that have already been equipped,” Minister Pickersgill informed.
This project, he said, would incorporate a range of interactive and non- interactive support media such as ‘Edu-TV’ and low cost cable channels.
Stakeholders from government and educational institutions across the Commonwealth are participating in the four-day forum, which got underway on October 30.
Participants are expected to share ideas for using open and distance learning to advance international development by widening educational access, bridging the digital divide and applying advances in technology to teaching and learning, especially in the less developed countries of the Commonwealth.
“I have no doubt that the collective objective expressed by this group, of contributing to development through innovation, learning and foundations will be advanced at this forum,” Minister Pickersgill stated.