40,000 students benefit from EduFocal learning platform
Despite schools being shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, learning continues for tens of thousands of Jamaican students who are benefiting from free access to e-learning platform EduFocal.
EduFocal, which prepares students from grades four to six for the Primary Exit Profile (PEP), has, since mid-March, been able to offer free online PEP classes and resources, with some $18 million in support from corporate partners Wisynco Group Limited, Tru-Juice, JP St Mary’s, Sagicor Foundation, National Baking Company Foundation, NCB Foundation, and Hawkeye.
According to EduFocal co-founder and CEO,= Gordon Swaby, more than 40,000 students have signed up for the service over the period while traffic on the site has increased an astronomical “4,000 to 5,000 per cent”. The initiative, he said, has also led to temporary jobs being created for 25 people, including teachers – who moderate the online sessions – and technical support personnel.
“I think we play a key part in the e-learning sector in Jamaica, and I think we have done a great job in doing what needs to be done to facilitate the education of our nation’s children,” Swaby said. “Since we have opened up the platform with the endorsement of the Ministry [of Education, Youth and Information] and other sponsors, we have received a very large uptake.”
Among those benefiting from the free online PEP resources is grade six student Cerease McCormack, deputy head girl of George Headley Primary School, who has been utilising the platform, www.edufocal.com, since grade five. McCormack’s daily use of the platform has allowed her to have a better understanding of subject areas, according to her mother, Krishendale Panton.
“With EduFocal, because she is constantly using the platform for research, and the content is advanced, it’s like she’s ahead of the class at times,” Panton said, adding: “A lot of the things she has learnt on it, she didn’t learn in class. So by the time the teacher reaches that point in class, she is ahead in the sense that she can answer questions and/or relate to what’s going on in the class.”
Despite the change in structure of the school-leaving examination, Panton remains confident about her child’s prospects in PEP, due in large part to the continuous preparation.
“Because they say they will (also) use grade four and grade five, we are confident that she will do well … because she was ahead of the game,” Panton said of her daughter, whose preferred high schools to attend in the upcoming academic year are Campion College, Immaculate Conception High School, St Andrew High for Girls, and Wolmer’s Girls’ High School.
In the meantime, Swaby has called for a ‘blended approach’ or the integration of online learning into the formal education system beyond the COVID-19 shutdown of schools.
Schools have been closed since March 13 and are scheduled reopen on September 7. However, with health experts believing that the new coronavirus is here to stay and social distancing becoming the new normal, Swaby hopes that the crisis has been a useful learning experience for the nation’s public-education authorities.
“It’s clear now that learning can’t happen only in the classroom. It should be complemented by other methods, including online learning,” Swaby said, adding that “with the right resources – access to the Internet and a device – it is clear that online learning is a relevant and effective method of the education of children.
“If a child is sick and at home with the flu, that child should not be prevented from learning. He or she should be able to access learning remotely,” he continued. “Even if the child is not sick, maybe we can consider a day or two days to be used for learning from home.”