The Government is in the process of procuring 100,000 laptops and tablets for the country’s most vulnerable students, for use in the upcoming academic year.
This was disclosed by Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Karl Samuda, who said that the devices are being provided for Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) students.
“We have commenced the procurement for 77,000 tablets for students up to grade nine and 25,000 laptops for students from grades 10 to 13,” Mr. Samuda informed during his contribution to the 2020/21 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, on Tuesday (July 28).
The Minister noted that the devices will be distributed on a phased basis, beginning in late August.
Additionally, tablets that are already in the possession of schools may be provided on loan to other students that are in need, under the Ministry’s loan protocol.
Mr. Samuda said the Government is seeking to ensure that more children will have access to these devices, having recognised that there is now greater reliance on technology, with schools now requiring that students have access to a dedicated tablet or a laptop for computer-based learning.
He further noted that the Ministry’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy has been approved and will be sent to schools during this week.
“This will allow parents to purchase computers, based on provided specifications. Students will also have access to the Ministry’s textbooks and additional content through these devices,” he said, adding that e-Learning Jamaica continues to deliver 25,000 tablets to teachers.
In the meantime, the Minister informed that the Ministry will be using a Blended Education Approach in the new school year, which will allow all students to benefit from meaningful and appropriate learning experiences.
“We intend to reach students by providing them with diverse learning opportunities and resources using a mix of… online instruction; interactive television programmes through the E-Homeschool Network provided by ReadyTV, the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) and the Jamaica Education Television; [the provision of] printed learning packages or kits; and face-to-face instruction,” he said.
Mr. Samuda pointed out that this blended approach will ease some of the demand for additional teachers, and informed that more than 20,000 teachers have already received training on virtual instruction through the Jamaica Teaching Council.
The Minister further noted that scheduling will be informed by enrolment; size of the school/number of classrooms and labs, and the social distancing requirements.
Importantly, Mr. Samuda said schools will be able to craft the approach that best suits their needs.