Through the Board of Education, the Ministry of Education is preparing to roll out its laptop programme in the government secondary schools.
This initiative, promised since last year as a donation from investor Roger Ver, is aimed at shoring up the Ministry’s online learning initiative for students and the teaching capacity of instructors.
Several virtual platforms have been in place since the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools last year and, again, in 2021. However, hundreds of students have been closed out of the new approach to learning, since they either do not have a device or do not have access to the Internet.
The laptop programme, which is to be piloted in five schools, will see the devices deployed to students in third, fourth and fifth forms. However, parents have been advised that acceptance is not mandatory, as the “Bring Your Own Device” option is available to their children.
If the students choose that option, then they “will be given access to all the applications and technical support that is being offered,” a letter from a principal advises. These students will also have their personal laptops assessed by the BoE “to ensure that the minimum requirement is met.”
Parents who opt for the BoE-issued devices must sign on to the programme, as they, ultimately, will be responsible for the care of the computers.
A source tells REAL News that the laptops will be loaded with certain subject exams, portable IT labs, and access to the content of textbooks. But the ultimate aim of putting the devices into the students’ hands is enabling them to go to class while out of school.
The mother of a Grammar School student tells REAL News that she welcomes the initiative, given the technology challenges some families face.
The rollout is set to begin on April 5.
Meanwhile, the source says that the controversial E-books now assigned to third to fifth-formers will be reclaimed, wiped clean, and prepared for redistribution to primary students in Grades 4 to 6.
They will be used to facilitate online classes, the source says, but the Ministry will decide upon the actual content on the devices.
At its virtual public meeting on March 8, the Political Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell, urged the Government to partner with the private sector to ensure that children and teachers without devices or Internet are provided with both.
Lovell reminded his audience that the UPP Administration had undertaken such an initiative during its tenure. It had gone even further by taking the IT classroom and Internet into the communities via fully equipped mobile units and computer-access centres.
This – and a number of other training activities – formed part of an intensive ICT-education initiative that was spearheaded by Dr. Edmond Mansoor, who then held the technology portfolio.
The Antigua Labour Party Administration, however, dismantled these programs when it took office.