Laptop programme: Revised, refreshed, reinstated
The Ministry of Education continues to be unwavering on its perspective as it pertains to the laptop initiative at our nation’s schools.
During his budget presentation in October of 2016, Minister of Education Anthony Garcia stated “There was no ICT policy at the Ministry of Education. We found that in the case of laptops, that the laptops were being used by students as toys and to play games. We found that there was a lack of governance structure for the management and monitoring of the ICT programme in schools.
"We found that there was inadequate ICT-supported infrastructure in the schools. There was limited access to internet services; there was inadequate preparation and training for teachers; and there was an inadequacy in terms of the laptop repair programme.”
As a result of these findings the Ministry of Education, on advice of Information and Communication Technology professionals, revised, refreshed and have now began the process of reinstating a more comprehensive and constructive plan that will benefit all school stakeholders.
As we shift into this new phase of continued ICT infusion into our classrooms, secondary schools will receive an average of 50 laptops each that will be used for curriculum delivery across ALL subject areas. These new laptops will total approximately thirteen thousand six hundred (13,600).
The goal of this new structure and laptop management system is to ensure that students and teachers are equipped in the classroom to keep up with international best practices in education. Previously, laptops were given to all students entering into form one but evaluation has shown that a lack of training for both teachers and students resulted in a significant amount of wastage as the machines were not well managed, poorly maintained and were of a subpar quality. To alleviate any possible repeat of this problem, the Teaching and Teacher Development Division in collaboration with the Curriculum Planning and Development Division of the Ministry has undertaken teacher training across Trinidad and Tobago.
Over five hundred (500) teachers have completed the training and currently over six hundred (600) more are being trained. These teachers span all subject areas and are being trained to develop lesson plans for their classrooms that will include the use of ICTs. The training will continue until all teachers at all schools have been enabled with the requisite skills to use the machines in the classroom. The new laptops that will be provided to schools will be equipped to be compatible with different connections available at schools (VGA/HDMI) and will also come with a three (3) year warranty where previously machines were only covered for six months.
The Ministry of Education also continues to understand the national public’s concern for financial management at such a crucial time in the country’s economy. As such the Ministry has employed over one hundred (100) ICT Technicians on three (3) year contracts to manage the updates, repair and life of these machines. Understanding that safety and security are also a major concern the fifty (50) laptops to be distributed at each school will come with a charging cart that will also house and secure the machines in addition to security measures that will be put in placeat each school.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago prioritizes the education of the nation’s children and while there continues to be much talk of what has happened in the past, the government’s current focus is on the future. Through this revamped programme teachers and students will be able to use a wealth of resources to achieve curriculum delivery. As the Ministry works on a continued output of citizens that are literate, numerate and able to write legibly, the importance of ICTs in the classroom has not been sidelined.
Minister Garcia cautioned the public to “Be careful of sources of information that only seek to create mischief and mislead the public. The government’s reason for stopping the previous incarnation of the laptop programme was wastage, mismanagement and a lack of a proper policy. This time around all parties will be able to benefit from these necessary tools without the country bearing a financial burden that reaps no reward.”