Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly has said after the pandemic, schools will not return to the status quo.
She said several measures will be put into place to incorporate lessons learned during the pandemic.
Gadsby-Dolly was speaking during a Twitter Space hosted by journalist Kejan Haynes on May 26.
She said 22,000 devices for online learning had been donated by corporate TT through the Adopt-A-School programme, and another 20,000 had been ordered by government. They are being shipped from Miami and should be received in early to mid-June.
“The means test has been done: we have about 22,000 respondents and those are being assessed now, and once the government’s devices are received we can supply.
"The donations from corporate TT have gone a long way in assisting, so we were able to give to our Standard Five students and based on the recommendations of the principals, we were able to give them devices. These came from TATT in collaboration with TSTT and Digicel, tablet devices with sims so they had connectivity and online access for three months.
"We worked with iGovTT to make sure we had the specifications we were looking for and so when those come in we expect them to be able to take a couple of knocks.”
Gadsby-Dolly said these devices are integral to the next stage that the government is working towards.
“Transformation isn’t something that happens when you wave a wand. We had to sit and look at the situation and plan for that.
"We’ve gotten Cabinet approval four critical things to aid in the transformation to the ecosystem we’re talking about that would enable the use of the devices: the use of ebooks; the development of the ministry’s school learning management system, which exists now and is in use, but needs to be optimised; then we’re looking at the educational management of information – all of the school records need to become digital; and fourth is a way to deal with the learning loss that we know is taking place because students are out of school and we are currently quantifying.”
Gadsby-Dolly said parents can contact Student Support Services if they feel their children need help. She said the ministry understands how helpful the unit is and has engaged the Public Management Consulting Division to find additional staff.
She said there were 2,000 students not attending school, while there were 22,500 registered. She said if students or their parents don’t show up for classes or packages, the principal or teacher contacts the Student Support Services Division, which contacts the parent. She said they may liaise with the police and the Social Development and Family Services Ministry to deal with the situation.
Speaking on the oft-repeated call to get rid of the SEA examination and have students go to schools in the area they live in, Gadsby-Dolly said it was easier said than done.
“While a majority of people on social media say they want it gone, we did consultations in 2016 and 2020, and it was split about 50/50. We’ve tried continuous assessment, which wasn’t as successful as it could have been. We’re setting up an SEA committee and planning consultations with stakeholders.
"We have to look at how we structure and how we test. It’s important to look at areas such as visual and performing arts and sports. We have to look at what the weightings are and how they impact the outcome of the exam.
“We also have to see if there are other things we want to put into that continuous assessment, because it comes into the whole question of curriculum reform, and our children understand that what we test is what is important. If we’re saying the ideal TT citizen has to have proper morals, ethics, and values, can we test that, and how? Digital literacy is another topic we could look into, as well as Spanish certification.”
The minister said the ministry was also looking at lifting the standards of all schools. She said there were cultural and system changes that need to be made in TT.
“The old boy and old girl systems are strong, but we also need to look at having the same level and quality of education in all schools. We need to know what makes a good school. The more successful schools have strong alumni associations and parent-teacher associations that give support and add value to fundraising. We are working on a quality-in-education project, but this will not happen immediately.”
She noted that while some parents had said they had not received the results of their children’s reviews, the Education Ministry had got the results. She suggested parents contact the ministry with their queries.
On late payments for substitute teachers and invigilators for SEA and CXC, Gadsby-Dolly said substitute teachers get paid after permanent workers, and this can take up to two weeks after permanent workers receive their pay. She said the delay in paying invigilators was because the exams were later than usual and the payments needed to be audited, as the financial year had ended in September.