Guyana’s Education Ministry on Tuesday launched its online learning platform for the delivery of education as the learning landscape worldwide continues to change with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The initiative, carrying a cost of approximately $174 million, is being done in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) UNICEF and the United Kingdom (UK) based Tablet Academy International.
The COVID-19 Accelerated Funding Project seeks to provide the hardware and infrastructure to support education through capacity building that will enable educators to deliver quality education, inputs, and experiences that are in sync with modernised delivery modes.
This project seeks to allow for the provision of an integrated online platform for teachers, principally for delivery of curriculum, but with many other capabilities and applications. At the launch, streamed virtually on the Ministry of Education’s Facebook page, Education Minister, Priya Manickchand, stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for expansion and improvement in Guyana’s education as it brought to the fore the importance of technology in the classroom.
Simultaneously, she said, it also revealed how unprepared Guyana was to handle that method of teaching.
“COVID-19 hit us, as a world extremely shockingly hard and the shock created to the various education systems around the world has been recorded.
“The fact [was] that we had not prepared for the type of school where we would have to deliver education with most of our children, all of our children in some countries, being outside of the classroom, in their living room and with teachers being outside of the classroom and their living rooms.”
Nevertheless, Manickchand relayed that Guyana has been coping well, evident by the launch of this platform. In restructuring the education system to suit a more tech-savvy population, the Education Minister said that a serious problem was uncovered – not many students had proper access to interest services or devices to suit this method of education delivery.
“We have had to look at what we had existing as technological infrastructure, computers, internet, smart classrooms, classrooms…we had a serious deficit of internet connectivity, with a bandwidth that would allow teaching and reception across the country which severely hampered students.”
For that very reason, the government through her ministry, launched the smart classroom initiative, equipping schools countrywide with the needed technology for online learning.
Also speaking at the launch was Professor Steve Molyneux, Chairman and Co-Founder of Tablet Academy International.
In his remarks, he noted that the pandemic, though devastating, presented a silver lining, forcing educators worldwide to create new ideas and innovative ways to deliver education to meet the needs of the new population of learners.
“With the focus again, on technology, we’ll be building up soft skills, the committee with sharp focus, soft skills on collaboration, communication, and teamwork. Being able to work at a distance, personalised learning will be in high demand and therefore the role of the teacher will be amplified.
“Technology creates and gives us that opportunity to completely reinvent and redesign education and teaching and learning in particular, based on the needs of each pupil,” Molyneux said.
The initial phase will target 1,000 Grade Seven teachers and their students in the four core subject areas. The roll-out will involve the training of 16 Master Teachers on the platform, who will then train and support other teachers in a cascading model.
Those educators will receive laptops with the accompanying software, Microsoft Office 365 with access to all productivity software, including word Excel, Powerpoint Note, Outlook and OneDrive.
Additionally, the solution will allow for the Ministry of Education to send security policies for students and teachers to determine what types of interactions are allowed safety first, even in the online environment.