McKenzie: West Kingston hard hit by learning loss
Kingston Western Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie said that students in his constituency have been severely impacted by learning loss after missing out on classes in the virtual set-up ushered in by COVID-19 in March 2020.
Speaking during the launch of a free Wi-Fi access point – with Internet services provided by the Universal Service Fund (USF) – at the Tivoli Gardens Community Centre on Friday, McKenzie said that the past two years have been rough for many students.
“West Kingston is one of those constituencies that were severely impacted by COVID as it relates to education. We lost almost one and half years of learning because many students in West Kingston either could not afford the tablet or even when we provided the tablets, the service was just not available and so we are going to be feeling the effects of that loss in learning,” he said.
The impact of that learning loss is already being manifested in the constituency, admitted McKenzie, who is also the minister of local government and rural development.
“Before COVID, our primary schools in GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) results were averaging in the high 80s, 90s,” he said, referencing the precursor to the current Primary Exit Profile tests used for high-school placements.
“St George’s Girls’ School, St Aloysius were two of the top schools, and we had, up to before COVID, more passes for the so-called traditional high schools and we had increases in many schools as high as 25, 15 per cent for traditional high schools.
“When the results of the GSAT came out, ... hardly any school in West Kingston achieved that level of placement. As a matter of fact, our high schools received what I would consider to be the bottom of the bucket in terms of placements.”
In January, Education Minister Fayval Williams disclosed that a World Bank study had showed that the fiscal impact to support the health and safety requirements for opening the country’s schools would be in the region of $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion annually for one to two years. This includes the cost of re-enrolment campaigns and outreach activities, providing targeted support for the most at-risk students, mitigating and preventing dropout, and facilitating remedial education to minimise learning loss.
“The World Bank concluded that the long-term cost of inaction is in the order of $828 billion, or approximately 40 per cent of Jamaica’s GDP,” she told parliament.
“So there is a need for real education and real education comes with that personal interaction between the students and the teachers … . The face to face is important, but with the advent of COVID, online learning is now an integral part of the education system and we could provide all the tablets and computers that we can possibly give, if the service is not there for the students to access it, then it makes no sense,” she said.
This month, all schools across the island were given the go-ahead to resume full face-to-face instruction.
In welcoming the free Internet service, McKenzie noted its use would increase the students’ understanding and expand their brainpower by making relevant information easily accessible to help make them better citizens.