THREE years ago, the Education Ministry wanted to install the Electronic Management Information System (EMIS) to help manage schools, but it cost $75 million and this was out of the government’s reach.
Today, the ministry has found less costly ways of monitoring schools, Minister in the Education Ministry Dr Lovell Francis has said.
He was addressing the closing ceremony of the Principal Leadership Series at Naparima College, San Fernando on Tuesday.
“We have developed an app that students will be able to use from their phones, and this will show us how many are traveling by hired maxi taxis.”
With this app, students will be given a number and this will be scanned on a daily basis to show they're present in the maxi taxis and in schools.
“This will ensure that the drivers or students do not trick the system, and payments to maxi taxis will then be made easy to calculate.”
Francis said the ministry will also be using a website to download information to schools and install cameras to monitor various schools throughout the country. This system will be implemented at the start of the new term on September 2.
He also said the system in which teachers graduate to becoming vice-principals and principals is absurd.
In TT there is a culture of confusing problems that are systemic, he said, with problems that are based on individuals.
“We take someone who would have spent most of his or her career as a teacher, which is a distinct profession with a distinct skill set and with distinct expectations, and who would have spent some time as the head of a department, which is a different skill set. And because of the curse called ambition, we make you into a principal and we expect, by magic, the person who was a teacher to operate as a principal.”
This, he said is absolutely absurd, because whereas if one spent the majority of time teaching, in which the biggest requirement being classroom management, “In becoming a principal your responsibility is everything."
A principal, he said, was "the leader in terms of implementing the curriculum, and you are responsible for the plant, so you have to become an engineer overnight. You must also be an auditor, because you are responsible for the finances.”
Francis asked how one leaves teaching to magically become a principal without some kind of meaningful intervention.
He said teachers who become principals are taken from one job and placed in another and the logical outcome will be a failure, since there was no training to become a principal. Having this kind of introspection, the Education Ministry, he said, embarked on a principals' training programme dealing with secondary school principals.
The ministry, he said, has undertaken 190-plus projects at schools, the largest number it has ever done.
As far as infrastructure goes, the ministry is satisfied, he said, that everything is in place for the opening of school. Francis said while the government may have everything in place, in this country something always goes wrong and the ministry is prepared for that.
Contractors are meeting with consultants and both Ramai Hindu School and the Reform Hindu School will be opened in due course, he said. The Santa Flora Government School and San Juan Boys' RC School are almost finished, though he could not give a date.
Asked whether there are plans to build the Princes Town Presbyterian School No 2, Francis said he had not seen any documentation on it, but last week he visited Princes Town Presbyterian No 1 and the government will be looking to construct a new building to house the classes of Presbyterian No 2.
The ministry is also looking at ways to help parents buy textbooks.
“The time has come when we should be looking at implementing e-textbooks,” he said.