Education in the new eraFriday, May 07, 2021
The technological revolution has been forced upon Jamaica's educational system. Although it has been in the making for more than two decades, the education system has been found scrambling to find its footing. This would not have been the case if, instead of making peripheral use of the technology, its application was fully embraced in the teaching and learning process over 10 years ago.
Clearly, the traditional teaching role does not fit easily into this technological era, and from all indications the stakeholders are making efforts to smooth out the bumps.
Education, like commerce, has been greatly affected by the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic. In the same way that most business transactions have gone online, educational institutions have been forced to facilitate learning by the online modality.
The Jamaica National Bioethics Committee views this new era of the two modalities of teaching and learning as a win-win situation should the right balance be found and all learners have equal access to interface, in that:
a) it provides space for the independent learner as they work online, while dependent learners have the support when they participate in face-to-face contact;
b) it facilitates learning during periods of absences caused through sickness/hospitalisation, travel, environmental disruptions, and family challenges;
c) it exposes all students to acceptable teaching standards, as classroom practices would be forced to meet satisfactory standards, since they are open to greater public scrutiny;
d) it provides more opportunities for curriculum innovations, such as the creation of learning networks, self-help groups, and with improved cooperation between providers, it might be possible for employment of peripatetic teachers with self- help groups; and
e) it is a grand opportunity for the Ministry of Education to provide schools with prepared standardised lesson plans to ensure that all students at every level in each subject are receiving the same content, with teachers deciding on the objectives and class activities from the cocktail of the suggested activities, and give teachers more preparation time.
The educational process is exposed to the influence of the wider society and its governing bodies, as well as being affected by the philosophy of the educators. And in these uncharted waters an uneasy tension exist. There is enough blame and doubts all-round, since understandably the outcome is not predicable at this time.
The Bioethics Committee highlights the concern that the more technologically based the society the easier it is for individuals to become alienated. Whilst proper implementation of online education has many advantages, schools should not reach the place at which face-to-face learning is overtaken by online learning only. The social interaction provided by face-to-face interaction is vital for the human well-being.
It was the teacher who successfully bridged the gaps of the classroom and they will do so now. It is the teacher's note home that communicates to the parents and caregivers the technological extension to the classroom. This is the opportunity for the teacher to have a positive contact with home.
Understand that the teacher and the class are travelling in areas that may be perceived as quite foreign to all. Therefore, take the parents along this journey so they may relate to what their children are doing.
The committee is encouraging all stakeholders to embrace the reality that school will not return to the normal pre-COVID-19 status. What is needed now is for the country to work on methods to ensure that each child has access to a device that will allow him/her to successfully participate in a mixed modalities of face-to-face and online learning. We support the calls to the powers that be to secure these devices possible through the e-Learning Project which has been handling the technology administration in schools, and for Internet coverage throughout the country to be more robust to ensure that no child is left behind.
Monica McIntyre is a member of the National Bioethics Committee of Jamaica.
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