Thousands of tablet computers are to be distributed to students and teachers from 30 institutions across the island, under a pilot programme starting in September.
This was disclosed by Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, during his contribution to the 2013/14 Budget Debate on Thursday, April 24m in Gordon House.
“We will begin E-Learning II, with the Schools Tablet Computer Programme. Under that programme, every single student and teacher at 30 schools – five early childhood institutions, 10 primary schools, five junior high schools and 10 high schools across the country, will be given a tablet computer free of cost, amounting to 20,000 tablets,” the Minster said.
He said that the schools selected to participate in the pilot are among those that have been assessed and found to be under-performing academically by the Ministry of Education.
Minister Paulwell informed that a team comprising representatives of his Ministry, the Ministry of Education, the E-Learning Jamaica Company and the Universal Service Fund (USF) would be undertaking the pilot project, which he asserted “will fundamentally change the way we approach education in Jamaica”.
“The joint team is currently designing the project’s key performance indicators and other critical factors, and the Minister of Education will give further details in his Sectoral presentation. This year-long pilot project will provide essential data we need to expand the tablet programme throughout the entire education system,” he said.
The tablets, Minister Paulwell noted, will be Wi-Fi and 3G enabled, and will come pre-loaded with approved age-appropriate games and apps, Ministry of Education prescribed texts, and all the software required for students up to Grade 12 to complete their School Based Assessments (SBA).
“Notably, the devices will have security features that will allow them to be tracked if stolen, and to block access to content that is harmful to children,” the Minister said, adding that each school will be made into a wireless hotspot, offering free access to broadband Internet for students and the wider community.
In the rollout of the full programme, there will be a nominal charge for the devices, which will be waived for students enrolled in the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), and for disabled students.
“Technology allows us to break down the old traditional barriers to accessing learning resources, and this administration is going to pilot the removal of all those barriers, to allow every Jamaican child an equal shot at achieving his or her goals,” he the Minister stated.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter