Minister of Education, Hon. Priya Manickchand on  Tuesday welcomed the launch of the online learning platform for the delivery of education, the principles of which she says would be fully merged into Guyana’s education system even post-Covid.

Speaking during Tuesday’s virtual launch, Minister Manickchand said the COVID-19 pandemic showed education systems around the world how unprepared they were to deliver education in ways other than the traditional method.

“Regardless of how much had been invested, the fact that we had not prepared for the type of school where we would have to deliver education with most of our children, all of our children in some countries, being outside of the classroom in their living rooms, with teachers being outside of their classrooms in their living rooms, COVID-19 showed us how very unprepared we were.”

Minister Manickchand noted that the pandemic has forced the Ministry to adapt to online learning.

“We have looked at every possible way of delivering education that is not traditional and by traditional, I mean a trained teacher standing in the classroom delivering education using a blackboard and chalk.

We have had to refashion our learning channel to deliver education according to the curriculum in a timetabled way to all who can receive that channel. We have had to look at how we use the radio which is still the main way in which people communicate especially in the deep hinterland regions of our country.”

The Ministry produced, printed and distributed worksheets to 170,000 student population across the country, within a few weeks.  Minister Manickchand said the Ministry examined the existing infrastructure, and found a serious deficit in the number of tablets and devices in the student and teacher population, and lack of internet connectivity with bandwidth that would allow teaching and reception countrywide.

“We particularly began to build out smart classrooms with the entire facility cameras, moving cameras, screens television screens internet connectivity with the hope that we can use the method of from one to many.

Education and the way we deliver it and the way we engage with our stakeholders, parents’ teachers’ students are going to change tremendously and I don’t believe it’s going to take very long,” she noted.

The Minister said the lessons learned over Covid has allowed the Ministry to reflect on all the procedures previously employed, determining what can be kept, as well as provide the opportunity to expand, learn and teach in new ways.

Ms. Quenita Walrond-Lewis, Director of National Centre for Education Resource Development in her presentation said the Ministry’s online initiative is supported by the Global Partnership for Education, UNICEF and consultants from the Tablet Academy of the United Kingdom.

She noted that the initiative is a component of the COVID-19 Accelerated Funding Project (AFP), which seeks to support the continuity of learning for pupils across Guyana.

“Be it through home-based resource packages for children while they are out of school, more local lessons delivered on television, on the Guyana Learning Channel or the Radio or supporting the safe return to school for learners and their teachers, by providing services materials and training to support this goal.

The COVID AFP across its components, seek to provide the hardware infrastructure and supporting education through capacity building that will enable educators to deliver to and for their students, quality education inputs and experiences that in sync with modernise delivery and the ability to better communicate with these technological natives, our students,” she added.

Ms. Walrond-Lewis said the initial phase will target 1000 Grade Seven teachers and their students in the four core subject areas. The roll-out would involve training 60 master teachers on the platform, who would then train and support other teachers in a cascading model. To facilitate this, these educators would be given laptops with the accompanying software – the Microsoft office 365, a three-software solution.

The system will allow for setting up of classes, facility for teacher and students notes assessments, group work meeting and live classes, while allowing the Ministry to set security policies for students and teachers.

The forum also heard the Tablet Academy was selected through an open bidding process. It trains more than 36,000 teachers annually, supports more than 1,500 schools and provide students with STEM enrichment workshops in Minecraft, Robotics, and Artificial Intelligence, which will be delivered remotely. On Wednesday there will be a free webinar between 10-11 am titled ‘Art of the Possible’ which will introduce teachers to Microsoft themes and teach them how they could be used.

By admin