PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Trinidad-based Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) says it will host a two-day forum to discuss the serious ramifications of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the education system.
CTU said that it will host an online interactive “ICT in Education – A Caribbean Forum,” on January 26-27 in collaboration with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
“ICT in Education will provide a forum for the sharing of information on mutual objectives with respect to technology and education, and encourage greater regional collaboration amongst key stakeholders. It will also facilitate networking opportunities with technology providers and look at possible solutions to support the implementation of practical policies,” said the CTU, an inter-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting and supporting the development of the Caribbean information and communications technologies (ICT) sector for the socio-economic development of the region.
CTU Secretary General, Rodney Taylor, said the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the traditional classroom, forcing schools to turn to technology platforms and other modes of online learning.
“Regional governments have grappled with developing sound policies as many students are still unable to access either the internet or devices to participate effectively. There is also a growing concern that many teachers have not been adequately trained to teach effectively in the digital classroom. This Forum will address the current challenges and develop policy recommendations on the way forward,” Taylor said.
The CTU said that UNESCO is supporting the first day of the Forum by providing technical expertise on ICT in education, such as the UNESCO Framework for Teachers' ICT Competencies and Institutional Capacity Building of Teaching Institutions.
“The rapid transition to online teaching we have witnessed in the past two years required teachers, students and parents to acquire ICT skills in a very short time, often without sufficient guidance, training or resources,” said Carlos Vargas Tamez, Chief of Section for Teacher Development, UNESCO and Head of Secretariat for the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030.
“This Caribbean Forum will highlight the efforts needed to address this transition. Among others, the Forum will focus on the pedagogical use of technologies and the transformations in teacher education and professional development needed, as exemplified by UNESCO's ICT Competency Framework for Teachers and the capacity development carried out with teacher education institutions.”
Tamez said that a most valuable lesson learned from the most recent digital turn is that teachers must be supported to help students grow into collaborative, problem-solving and creative learners, who can utilise ICTs to participate in society and build the future.
The Barbados-based ITU Area Office said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the digital divide and the issue of connectivity into stark focus, in particular in the education sector.
“As communities with good connectivity can continue to work and learn, those communities with minimal connectivity or without, or who depend fully on the analogue world, are left out. ITU is leveraging its strategic partnership with UNICEF, government and the private sector in the OECS through its GIGA Initiative to map every school's connectivity, finance connectivity, connect every school, and empower young people.
“Through the GIGA Initiative, the ITU supports COVID-19 responses in the region with connectivity and remote learning solutions in order to connect every school to the internet, and every young person to information, opportunity and choice. The ITU is pleased to partner with the CTU as indeed, this important ICT in Education Forum will certainly help to address the social and moral imperative of connectivity and ICT in the education sector,” the ITU Area Office added.