Thu | May 25, 2017

Modernise Jamaican schools

Published:Tuesday | February 24, 2015 | 2:00 AMRomaro Scott

These days, the accessibility and convenience of computers and smartphones is unprecedented. To some extent, we have seen the power of technology and the positive impact it has had on some of Jamaica's major productive sectors.

Why then, in 2015, are some schools still only storing paper-based records of students and staff? To put it bluntly, it is unacceptable that in a period when even a first-grade student can build a website many school administrators have had to hang their heads in shame when asked if their school has a website because there exists not even the domain name much less the website itself.

It is imperative that the Jamaican education system adopt a First World approach.

It is commendable that the Tablets In School programme has finally started, but the potential of the programme has been severely diminished because, as the Government should know, most schools are not equipped with wireless Internet facilities, which are critical for students to have a fulsome experience of using the tablets.

A few years ago when the e-Learning programme was launched and imple-mentation started in schools, many believed that by now most, if not all, schools would be technologically advanced, at least that was the impression given.

It is hard to appreciate, even without the empirical evidence, that the programme has matured because to date, many schools have nowhere to house computers and servers much less to have the Internet access required.

Why is it that after some 10 years, there has been no major assessment of the programme? Moreover, why hasn't the minister of education informed the nation about the status of the programme? After all, the e-Learning programme was supposed to be the premier programme that would pave the way for major technological advancements in the school system.

The Government's forgotten cynosure (Vision 2030 document) highlights

that by 2030, Jamaica should be a technology-enabled society. It is laughable that as one of the major items under the National Development Plan, we seem nowhere close to achieving that ambitious goal.

The Jamaican society cannot be technologically enabled when even the very institutions where our human resource is moulded and developed lack the basic facilities to merely even reflect the seriousness and the commitment the Government has to achieving the goal.

The education minister has repeatedly told the country he is revising the outdated Education Act, but we are two months into a new year and we have heard nothing. Will the revised act mandate schools to have at least a basic website structure? Will it mandate schools to store records electronically? If the answers to those are not in the affirmative, we can forget about being a technology-enabled society by 2030, as the plan delineates.

essential

The modernisation of our schools must start now if Jamaica is

to achieve this milestone. It is unfathomable why the education ministry would not see it as an urgent need to rationalise the school system. It is an essential.

To begin with, there needs to be a national electronic database of all students entering the education system where personal and academic records will be stored for performance monitoring and efficiency in record keeping. Also, each school should have a website that will provide enough information for parents, current, and prospective students to be well-informed about the school's history, policies, structure, among other things. Furthermore, having a school website is a genius way of engaging parents and past students.

School administrators have always complained about parents' absenteeism for parent-teacher association (PTA) meetings where they would like to relay critical information to them. Having a website will enable the podcasting of important events such as the PTA meetings so as to allow parents who are not in attendance physically to still be in the know.

A school website in a technologically enabled society would see parents being able to track their children's performance from anywhere across the world. If a midterm assessment were to be done of the progress thus far to attain status of being a technologically enabled society, failure would be written all over the report.

The education minister needs to excogitate and forthwith revise the Ministry of Education's strategy because the insular approach to dealing with the school system will not reach very far.

In the upcoming Budget Debate, the Government should use the opportunity to asseverate its commitment to realising national outcome number two and 11 in the Vision 2030 Road Map so that by then, Jamaica could be veritably a First World country.

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