A total of 1,200 teachers across the public secondary school system have been issued with tablet computers as the Government rolls out the pilot for its Tablets in Schools project, in time for the start of the 2014 academic year.
Minister of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, made the announcement Wednesday, August 27, at an awards ceremony for 12 children of members of staff of his Ministry, for excellent performance in this year’s sitting of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
The one-year pilot of the Tablets in Schools project will be administered in 38 educational institutions islandwide, including 13 primary, six all age and junior high, 11 high, six infant departments, one teacher’s college, and one special education institution. It will initially involve 728 teachers.
A total of 25,000 tablets are to be distributed to teachers and students in the targeted institutions during the pilot phase.
Distribution started in July, following the signing of contracts valued at $800 million with four technology solutions companies to provide the institutions with tablets along with a range of supplies, including accessories, and device management solutions and services, such as tracking and content control.
Minister Paulwell told JIS News that there is “great anticipation” for the project. “We have (also) been sensitising the parents, so there is great excitement,” he said.
He noted that extensive training of teachers was carried out during the summer break, and expressed his appreciation to all the educators, who had foregone other activities, to participate in the sessions.
Stating that the project’s anticipated benefits will not occur overnight, Minister Paulwell said: “we want to analyze this project for the first year, at the end of which we believe we will be able to recommend an all island roll-out of the tablets in schools.”
He noted that once the programme is fully implemented, parents will be expected to contribute at least half of the cost for the tablets. He said, by then, the cost for the devices is expected to be much lower. “When they (companies) are bidding on 600,000 tablets, we expect a much lower price…the parents will no longer have to purchase books, so there will be savings there,” he explained.
Students on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) will not be required to contribute.
The Minister further informed that significant retrofitting works have been carried out to ensure that the institutions are able to accommodate the technology.
This includes enabling full WiFi access. “So, from you enter the premises of the school – anybody with a computer will be able to access Internet service free of cost,” he said.
Additionally, charging stations are being put in place, as well as special safety areas where the tablets can be stored during school hours. “We are also implementing smart boards, which are going to be interactive,” he said.
By Alphea Saunders