MoE making Education Accessible to All

The Ministry of Education takes this opportunity to clarify and inform the public on the measures taken since September 2020 to provide access for all students to teaching and learning opportunities. 

In September 2020, acknowledging that not all students would have access to online education, the Ministry of Education instituted, alongside the virtual system, the printed package system, as has been done the world over. The MOE also provided educational material through various channels- via social media on the Ministry of Education’s YouTube Channel, television via Flow Digital 104 & Analog 4, Digicel Channel 4 and On Demand/ Education Folder, Amplia Channel 104, Green Dot on Channel 4, radio via Radio Talk City 91.9FM and in the print media via the ECCE pull out in the Sunday Guardian.

In addition to these measures, the Ministry of Education reached out to the private sector, encouraging the donation of devices, through which 11,079 have been donated to children nationwide, out of a total number of 22,053 pledges. This has enabled thousands of our children access to the online environment, which, even as the prospect of schools re-opening for some is being broached, is regarded by many citizens as the best option for their children at this time. 

In fact, when one considers the actions of the Ministry of Education since September 2020:

-          Ensuring a virtual restart to school, allowing over one hundred thousand students access to the teaching and learning environment. 

-          Making educational material available to students who could not be online through printed packages, TV, Radio, social media and print media.

-          Facilitating donations of over 11,000 devices and connectivity from the private sector directly to students in schools.

-          Provision of online training to teachers from March 2020 to present in online education and content creation currently ongoing through NotesMasters of the UK

-          Processing the ongoing purchase of 20,000 laptops by the government to provide to students in need of devices (currently in the evaluation stage).

-          Completion of the means test which will be used to ensure that the laptops provided by the government are given directly to those who require them.

-           it is clear that the MOE remains committed to the process of providing education for the most vulnerable students with the resources available.

The MOE notes the comment that “effective planning and a commitment to investing in our children’s education would have ensured that all pupils were equipped for class before the bell was rung to start online classes back in September”. However, this does not take into account the global realities facing the education sector and the underlying complexities. 

The Ministry of Education, given its mandate of no child left behind, could not have sat idly by, in the throes of a global pandemic, and allowed over one hundred thousand students who were able to start school online in September 2020, to be without an opportunity to learn. However, in recognition of the fact that an estimated 65,000 students did not have personal devices, and might have difficulty accessing the online environment, measures as indicated above, based on global best practices, were instituted in Trinidad and Tobago.

The fact, as promulgated by the Ministry of Education since September 2020, is that online learning is not a panacea for the teaching and learning challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact is, like other countries, Trinidad and Tobago is working, through resources donated by the government, private sector and international agencies, to bring all students online, and simultaneously infuse our teachers and students with the requisite skills to teach and learn in an environment that is new and challenging. All of this while providing opportunities for those not online to learn.

The suggestion that our students should have been left without the opportunity, regardless of the challenges, to progress their education, write their terminal examinations and compete nationally, regionally and internationally for educational opportunities – is unacceptable. 

As expressed in many international documents, the best way to ensure that “the learning crisis presented by COVID-19 does not become a generational catastrophe is to suppress transmission of the virus and plan thoroughly for school re-openings.” Despite all that is being done by parents, teachers, students and the Ministry of Education to facilitate online school, this is the ultimate goal. The actions of the government to reduce the spread of the virus and create the enabling environment for the partial reopening of schools, planned for February 2021, speak to importance of that objective.

No education sector in the world was prepared for totally virtual primary and secondary school.  The majority, including Trinidad and Tobago, have made and continue to make the required steps to meet students at the point of their need to provide education. The efforts of the teachers and principals in preparing packages, training and practicing online teaching, reaching out to students and parents having difficulty with the transition; the efforts of Employee Assistance Program and School Guidance Officers and School Social Workers, providing support for teachers and students to help them through the difficult transition; the efforts of the staff of the Ministry of Education, the parents, the private donors – all of these persons and more have worked and continue to work to make the best of a difficult situation, and one hopes that their spirits are not daunted by those who would seek to lift fingers to heap scorn on their various contributions, but not to assist in overcoming the challenges.

The Ministry of Education, understanding that transformation is a process, continues to advance the agenda, as it engages the projects being currently undertaken to increase the relevance and resilience of the education sector in Trinidad and Tobago, and to provide quality, equitable and holistic education for all. The work of the Ministry at this time includes, but is not limited to, the following projects and actions:

-          Reform of the MOE’s School Learning and Management System (SLMS).

-          Acquisition of MiFi devices and laptops in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Administration (currently at the evaluation stage).

-          Provision of connectivity for schools through the Ministry of Public Administration

-          Procurement of online solutions for increasing numeracy and literacy levels.

-          Procurement of e-books to be provided to students.

-          Facilitation of device donation to students through the Adopt-A-School program- 11,079 delivered, 10,974 still to be delivered.

-          Training of teachers in content creation and use of locally-produced teaching resources through Notesmasters

-          MOE-led teacher, principal and student online training.

-          Reopening of schools for exam students.

-          Physical repair projects in over 100 schools.

-          Review of operations of the Teaching Service Commission and Human Resources Unit of the Ministry of Education to reduce and clear the backlogs which affect teachers.

-          Design and implementation of a facile online attendance system, which would allow the generation of data related to student attendance in form and subject classes, student performance and engagement, which is necessary for school reporting.

-          Completion of the Report of the National Consultation on Education 2020 which will allow focused decisions to be taken on Curriculum Reform, SEA, the Teaching Service Commission, the Concordat and Blended Learning, among other topics. The Curriculum Review taskforce has already begun work on this area based on preliminary submissions.

-          The Quality in Education Project, which will revise the classification system for school performance and the attendant intervention and monitoring strategies to be implemented as the issue of equity in education is addressed.

-          The discussion of intervention strategies, using an inter-ministerial approach, to the long-standing issue of student absenteeism and attrition rates.

-          An evaluation of the Student Support Services Division (SSSD) with a view to provide adequate resources to improve the service output to children with special needs.

-          A continuation of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) rationalization project, involving secondary schools, MIC, NESC and YTEPP, UTT to address the critical lack of qualified graduates in this area.

-          Awaiting the final 2-year results for CAPE students from CXC to implement the already prepared National Bursary Process and Scholarship Program

 

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