The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has partnered with Microsoft to provide, free of cost, 500,000 Microsoft Office 365 Education Software licences to students in educational institutions.


Making the announcement during Tuesday’s (November 24) sitting of the House of Representatives, Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, said the approximate annual value, assuming all 500,000 licences are used, is US$15 million or J$2.1 billion.


The sitting was held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.


The free 500,000 licences of Office 365 EDU A3 plan for students in Jamaica include full office suite with Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher for personal computer (PC) only, Access for PC only and services that include Teams, SharePoint and Forms.


“This licence also allows 500,000 students to download the Office Pro Plus (Word, Excel, etc.) to any of their home PCs, so they enjoy the same experience at school and at home,” she said.


Ms. Williams noted that the partnership aims to make technology readily available to students and expose them to a suite of skills and applications that enhance their learning experience, whilst preparing them for the 21st century workforce.


She said Microsoft, through its Country Manager for Jamaica, has affirmed the partnership and its commitment to education in Jamaica, underscoring the mutual benefit.


Mrs. Williams informed that the Ministry will be distributing the licences to classroom teachers, principals, students at the secondary level, as well as students at teachers’ colleges, community colleges and other multidisciplinary institutions.


The Minister said since Microsoft Office 365 is a cloud-based platform, students will always have the most current and secure version.


Meanwhile, she said the Ministry is pleased to note that students who use Office 365 Education Software in the classroom are exposed to, and ultimately become conversant with a suite of skills and applications that are highly valued by employers.


She noted, too, that it is giving students a head start, not only in their career paths as seekers of employment but also creators of employment.


“It should be noted that students will have access to the Microsoft Office 365 Education Software as long as they are students in our participating educational institutions,” she said.


Ms. Williams said the Government is on a journey to equip students for the complexities of the 21st century, while making them digitally ready. “Our Jamaican children will not be left behind,” she emphasised.


For her part, Opposition Spokesperson on Education and Training, Dr. Angela Brown Burke, welcomed the partnership with Microsoft.


“I am particularly pleased to see the collaboration and what it is yielding in terms of the 500,000 Microsoft Office 365 Education Software, and I agree it goes a long way in closing the digital divide,” she said.