Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Minister, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, says the Ministry will be embarking on a project to introduce tablet computers in schools across the island.
This project will seek to address challenges associated with the procurement of textbooks by students, and institutions’ inability to provide adequate equipment to be used by students.
A tablet is a mobile computer, larger than a mobile phone or personal digital assistant (PDA), integrated into a flat touch screen and primarily operated by touching the screen rather than using a physical keyboard. It often uses an onscreen virtual keyboard, a passive stylus pen, or a digital pen.
Speaking at a presentation of scholarships to students in his East Kingston and Port Royal constituency, for the 2012/13 academic year, at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), in New Kingston, on September 5, Mr. Paulwell said the Ministry will
be moving to see how best students who are unable to acquire their own computer at home or who encounter challenges accessing those at their schools, can receive a tablet.
"We want every single student in Jamaica to be able to go to school or go home with that device, which will enable better learning. On that device, we will have your textbooks, in the future, in soft copy. So, no longer will you (students) be slugging around with a bagful of books," the Minister said.
"On that tablet, you can access your textbooks. I think we will be able to do that (feasibly) because of the quantities, and it will work out far cheaper. We have to find ways and means of lowering the cost to educate our people," he told the students.
While not giving a timeline for the commencement of the initiative,
Mr. Paulwell hinted that it would begin "very shortly" at the Port Royal Primary School, and that, "we are hoping, over time, to expand this throughout Jamaica."
The Minister said he welcomed the Education Ministry's initiative this year, to publish a set of textbooks which the Government will provide free of cost at the primary and secondary levels.
Mr. Paulwell said the Ministry also recognised the challenges experienced by institutions which have a student enrolment of upwards of 1,000, but only one computer laboratory.
"Having a computer lab is good. But, you really can't maximise the usage of the computers in a lab setting when you have over 1,000 students relying on that one lab. There are many schools where students can afford to have their own devices (computers), there are many schools where students cannot afford their own,” he pointed out, adding that tablet computers would be ideal in these situations.
Scholarships, valued at over $1.4 million, were awarded to 83 students for the 2012/13 academic year. Fifty-three of these, ranging between $25,000 and $40,000 in value, were presented to students attending tertiary institutions. The remaining 30, valued at $10,000 each, were awarded to students attending secondary institutions.
The scholarships and other attendant tuition costs were financed from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), with additional contributions coming from Carib Cement Company Limited, and Jamaica Bauxite Mining Limited.