Thu | Dec 3, 2020

ReadyTV boss calling for national digital TV learning

Published:Monday | October 19, 2020 | 7:21 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Chris Dehring (right), director and chief executive officer of the ReadyTV digital broadcast television network, demonstrates how the network’s system works at the Glendevon Primary and Junior High School in St James. Looking on are Education Minister Fa
Chris Dehring (right), director and chief executive officer of the ReadyTV digital broadcast television network, demonstrates how the network’s system works at the Glendevon Primary and Junior High School in St James. Looking on are Education Minister Fayval Williams (centre) and Keith Smith, chief executive officer of eLearning Jamaica Company Limited.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Businessman Chris Dehring, the chief executive officer of ReadyTV, wants the Ministry of Education to consider the full use of digital television as a learning tool for students, based on its capacity to provide long-distance learning opportunities.

“There is an absolute crisis in education, as a recent UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) report showed that 90 per cent of the world’s students have been affected by COVID, meaning they have been cut off from school,” said Dehring, while speaking at a handover ceremony to present 62 computer tablets to the Glendevon Primary and Junior High School in St James on Thursday.

“Over 800 million students across the world do not have an instrument, a computer, a phone, or a laptop to connect,” added Dehring.

The June UNESCO report outlined the use of television and radio programmes for distance education at a time when some 826 million students whose schooling has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic have no Internet at home.

DISTANCE EDUCATION

“That particular UNESCO report also pointed to another way that is being used globally to educate our children. I am talking about the poor countries of the European Union and the United States, who are using distance education through digital television. So I urge the Ministry of Education to explore a nationally televised education system,” said Dehring.

His recommendation comes in the aftermath of a call in May for a public-education policy to guide distance learning, following the closure of schools in March due to the COVID pandemic. The issue has been compounded by the lack of Internet connectivity and computer devices for students in some communities across Jamaica.

The ReadyTV director noted that digital television could provide an effective distance education opportunity during the time it would take to provide full Internet connectivity to Jamaica, which he says has only achieved 35 per cent connectivity since 1985.

“It took us 35 years to get to 35 per cent Internet penetration in this country. How much longer do you think it is going to take to double that, and at what cost? It is what we need to be moving to do, and we will get it done, but it is going to take time and a lot of money,” said Dehring.

“In the meantime, generations are growing up, and those generations can be served by digital television as well, with live classes and pre-recorded classes on their TV sets at home, and they utilise the data when they want to interact with the teacher in the classroom,” added Dehring.

ReadyTV is a Portmore-based digital broadcast television network, which was launched in June 2017 and has coverage reaching approximately 70 per cent of all Jamaican households.