The school term is almost at an end.
However, educational stakeholders have agreed it was far from perfect, having been marred by limited devices, poor internet connectivity, power outages and inadequate training.
But as the country gets prepared for a term of blended learning next year, president of the T&T Unified Teachers Association Antonia Tekah-De Freitas says the lessons learnt from this term must be applied going forward.
She called for parental training to be done by the Ministry to help parents better cope.
“One of the lessons we learnt is that we need to orient parents to the fact that when a child is at home and online, there must be full attention for the period that the child is engaged with the teacher. That should not be interrupted until the break time has been reached,” she said.
She added, “The challenges that teachers faced this term was not just connectivity and devices but also issues of student attendance and participation at the primary and secondary levels. We had situations where students could not log on or did not log on at all for the day’s activities. We had students who logged on but because they were at home they were being asked to do things around the home.”
She called for a better internet connectivity backup plan, noting that T&TEC should also do better at ensuring disruptions are minimal during school time.
She also explained that some teachers faced difficulties and were doing double duty.
“You cannot expect the school day in the virtual environment t to be the same duration as that of a physical day. It is unrealistic to engage from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm. We are dealing with the issue of fatigue and screen time has to be limited to preserve health and well being.
Tekah-De Freitas also said teachers spent long hours preparing classes with some posting work during the wee hours of the morning.
“Teachers have families and they need to rest. Some teachers found great difficulty in maintaining work-life balance. We need to have a different method of timetabling and scheduling for subjects for different levels,” she said.
She called on parents to show empathy for teachers.
Meanwhile, president of the National Primary School’s Principals Association, Lance Mottley said while face to face teaching was better, this could not be put in place without proper consideration.
“We are coming out of the Christmas holidays and the trend has shown that there seems to be a spike after a holiday. it is not surprising therefore that the Ministry of Health is not opening on January 4. It is a prudent decision. Schools will be reopened virtually on January 4.”
He said there was a lot of information that was not known about COVID-19.
“It is wise to cautiously bring them out in groups. I am seeing that the vaccine will be rolled out before the end of the year. Next year the vaccine may come here and we will see how the country reacts and behaves to a vaccination,” Mottley said.
He said the SEA examination should have been scrapped since last year, noting that some level of continuous assessment is best.