Education must continue - - Minister says advancement of students must be top priority
“We can’t lay down our arms in terms of the education of our students. It has to continue,” stressed Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Fayval Williams.
And she is beseeching parents to match her passion and determination, calling on them to take more interest in their children’s education. She bemoaned the fact that during recent visits to the institutions that have resumed face-to-face classes, there were numerous uncollected textbooks.
The minister’s remarks follow concerns raised yesterday by parents and principals in this newspaper regarding students’ level of preparation for the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) exam.
COVID-19 had a crippling effect on the education system last year, which hampered learning for the majority of students. Many are of the view that students are not up to standard to sit the PEP exam and are calling for up to a one-year delay to get them to an acceptable level.
The ability test is scheduled to be administered on February 23, while the performance task and the curriculum-based test are set for two days in April and May, respectively.
Minister Williams believes that it is important for students to complete the first component of the exam (the ability test) as it will provide needed information in “figuring out what’s the support that they need for the curriculum-based test in May of this year”.
She emphasised that the education system continues to operate by a process, as the country manoeuvres the COVID-19 pandemic and tries to ensure “that students are of the frame of mind and that they get the necessary support to be able to complete the first test” so that they can get further assistance.
Cognisant that there is still a sizeable gap between students who have not been attending classes and those who have been, Williams said that they are working with teachers to make lessons more personal to meet the students where they are, which is easier to do virtually.
Admitting that other nations are more technologically advanced than Jamaica, Williams emphasised that “other countries are moving ahead with education for their students. They are doing all that they can and we have to do the same”.
As such, the education ministry will be launching an initiative on January 18 to go into communities across the island to make contact with students who have not been using any of the modalities based on data collected from last term.
In December, the ministry fulfilled its pledge to provide Internet access to 100 schools through a partnership with ReadyTV.
Yesterday, Huawei donated 500 tablets to the One Laptop or Tablet Per Child Initiative, bringing total donations to just over 700. As before, these tablets will be distributed through the National Educational Trust (NET), and schools will be selected based on requests made to the NET or to Huawei for assistance.
Latoya Harris, director of Donor and Partnership Management of the NET, explained that even if all schools commenced face-to-face, “the need for devices is still critical, given the drive for STEM education and transformation of the teaching and learning space”.
Approximately 150 schools of the 972 public schools across the island have been given clearance to open for the Easter semester.
While Minister Williams hurriedly declined to comment and provide reassurance to parents in light of US Ambassador Donald Tapia’s claims that China is using Huawei technology to spy on Jamaicans, Courtney Hamilton, director of the Enterprise Business Group at Huawei Jamaica, denied those assertions.
“These are just devices you would buy like any other devices out there on the market,” said Hamilton, adding that as a corporate entity, they are committed to supporting Jamaica and Jamaica’s children.