Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly has said the return to the physical classroom will help mitigate the learning loss experienced by some schoolchildren during the covid19 pandemic.
In a WhatsApp message to Newsday on Friday, Gadsby-Dolly said an online literary and numeracy solution will be streamed this term to allow for self-directed learning in those fundamental areas, both inside and outside the classroom.
In addition, she said, "The Ministry of Education will provide schools with diagnostic tests to be done in maths and grammar, the results of which will identify to teachers learning gaps to be addressed.”
Her response follows the results of the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam on Thursday, when she highlighted a decrease in performance in all three subjects in the exam between 2020 and 2021.
“The major mitigation effort is to have our children return safely to physical school so that learning losses are not exacerbated.”
Chairman of the Association of Denominational Boards of Education Sharon Mangroo also told Newsday on Friday that face-to-face classes will correct the learning loss suffered during the pandemic.
“There were always other issues, and we need to address those issues,” said Mangroo. “There were equity issues. The children who we have equity issues with are the ones that suffer the most.”
She said a recent international study indicated children who did not have supervision or electronic devices to attend virtual classes were most affected.
“How do we address it? We continue the drive for providing devices, connectivity, and continue training teachers to use distance modes of communication effectively.”
Secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) Vijay Maharaj said, contrary to the overall results, SDMS schools performed better in the SEA than last year.
“My schools did exceptionally well,” he told Newsday on Friday. “Of the 1,700-plus students we had, 1,185 passed for seven-year schools…94 per cent of our children passed overall.”
He said after meeting with principals on Friday, the team found students who had parental support performed best.
“Teaching today is not only online. What has changed is the teacher/student/parent relationship. The parents have to now come in to play a role.”
Former UNC minister of education Tim Gopeesingh said there were several reasons why there were difficulties achieving the results of previous years.
He said the number of students who were unable to participate in virtual learning could have been avoided.
“If the government and the ministry had taken initiative, within one to two months of the (start of the) pandemic, knowing schools would be closed, they could have determined how many students would have been deprived of virtual education,” he said. “They took almost a year to determine how many devices were needed, and even now, they are still asking for 40,000 devices.
“Why didn’t the government see education as a priority and ensure…students had sufficient devices? That is a failure on their part. A gross failure.”
He also said a massive training programme should have been implemented for teachers, principals, schools, and supervisors to effectively deliver their syllabus and curriculum to students.
“Many teachers found themselves in a strange land.”
In January, the ministry began training primary and secondary school teachers and principals across all seven education districts in Notemaster, an eLearning platform, to develop competence in the use and creation of open education resources.
Gopeesingh said, “Imagine, we have to beg the private sector to help provide students with ITC devices. It is an abominable shame and this government has to take responsibility for it.”
He said it will take some time for things to return to normal, even with a return to the physical classroom.
He said, however, if Gadsby-Dolly and her ministry are ever in need of guidance, he would be willing to assist.
“Being an educator and former minister, I wish the minister well and success, because we want the best for our students and the education system. We continue to be available for any advice or help that they may need because of our experiences from the past which can help the present and the future.”