Education Minister Fayval Williams has announced that work to establish internet access in 690 schools through the islandwide broadband network is projected for completion by the end of fiscal year 2023/24.
The minister was speaking during Wednesday’s (May 24) opening ceremony for a two-day Technology in Education Conference, hosted by e-Learning Jamaica at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
Williams said all primary- and secondary-school teachers will also receive individual laptops.
This is being done in collaboration with the Ministry of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport, and the National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Advisory Council.
She emphasised that the government is looking to outfit each school on the network, to help bridge the digital divide and assist students in gaining “mastery of reading and writing.”
“That is the one big, enormous thing that we need right now in education,” she said.
Williams noted that literacy is defined as the ability to “identify, understand and interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written material”, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
“Everyone of us sitting here this morning knows that high literacy rates have been found to correlate to everything, from better access to economic opportunity, better nutrition [and] environmental sustainability,” she said.
Against this backdrop, the minister said initiatives such as the recently launched Literacy Education Acceleration Programme (LEAP), which utilises ICT as a tool, continue to show that technology can improve student literacy.
CREATING AN INCLUSIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
She said during the initiative’s pilot phase, students were found reading three grades above the level at which they started, after a few months under the programme.
The conference, being held under the theme ‘Embracing Education Transformation Through Technology Integration’, will focus on several major topics. These include artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, diaspora engagement, and technology in early-childhood education.
Chief Executive Officer for e-Learning Jamaica, Andrew Lee, in his remarks said the agency continues to focus on collaborating with industry stakeholders and private-sector partners to facilitate an inclusive learning environment “that prepares students for the challenges of the digital age.”
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR PARTNERSHIP
“I’m of the view that the partnership between the public- and private-sector is necessary, particularly with respect to education, if we’re to digitally transform our country over the next few years,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gary Campbell, director of technology in the Ministry of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport, said the Ministry is aware of the prevailing challenges and public concerns regarding the use of technology in schools.
“We, as a country, strive to do our best to ensure that we stay abreast of what’s happening, and we’re doing what we need to do to ensure that the right policies and regulatory frameworks are in place to protect all of us who use the technology,” he said.