The Ministry of Education says it has been forced to design a means test to determine which students truly need devices as the initial figure of 65,000 who were said to be without at the start of September – has not decreased in the past five weeks.
This, even after 17,000 devices received from the corporate sector and private citizens were distributed to various schools across the country.
Revealing this as she responded to questions yesterday, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said, “Based on the last data collected in early October, 65 000 students still indicated the need for devices. The fact that this figure has not decreased even with donations and device purchases over the last two months…might suggest that responses could have been influenced by the national conversation about device provision.”
As a result, she said the MOE had decided on a means test, “to ensure that the students who are in need will receive the devices procured by the Government.”
The means test is being designed in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development where Gadsby-Dolly has indicated, the necessary expertise resides.
Additionally, the minister said while devices had been supplied to teachers who had indicated a need before, “additional devices are currently being assigned to those who are now indicating same.”
Challenging the minister’s statement during her budget contribution on Tuesday when Gadsby-Dolly claimed 90 per cent of students were accessing education online – the National Council for the Parent-Teacher Association (NCPTA) said the figures were not adding up.
NCPTA’s Public Relations Officer Shamila Raheem yesterday estimated the online figures could be closer to 75 per cent.
She questioned, “We would like to know what method and data information was used by the Ministry of Education to reach that 90 per cent.”
In response, Gadsby-Dolly clarified, “I said in my speech that 90 per cent of students are online – that does not mean that they all have their own individual devices. Many are sharing devices with siblings, parents, etc. and also persons are accessing connectivity from shared sources to be able to access the online environment. The two issues are related but not the same.”
Meanwhile, Gadsby-Dolly said Adopt-a-School donors were, “making their own monitoring arrangements with the schools to whom they are donating.”
She said the MOE’s Learning Management System (LMS) would allow for data generation showing student activity during school hours.
Gadsby-Dolly cautioned that while no monitoring system will ever be 100 per cent foolproof, “The emphasis will be to ensure that students are fully engaged during school hours and that the use of the devices will be integrated into the delivery of the curriculum such that they become as an essential learning tool.”
Indicating the feedback reaching the NCPTA was different from that received by the MOE, Raheem revealed, “Several schools throughout the country are still faced with issues relating to devices and connectivity, in particular, our rural areas.”
Requesting a meeting with the ministers to discuss this and other issues, she said the NCPTA is ready to share information and feedback they had received from parents, teachers and students as to how the online education process was working and what were the challenges experienced thus far.
Further, Raheem said the NCPTA had received complaints from online users regarding the durability of some devices.
Raheem said the major complaint had been, “devices conking out” as multiple persons use the same instrument to access online classes and also by those working from home.
She said a further challenge stemmed from the fact that some parents are not as literate and cannot assist their kids with classes, but she is optimistic the wider parent and student populations are adapting to the new normal which will continue until December.