Will we resume dinosaur education?Wednesday, June 23, 2021
The pandemic has certainly tested the resilience and illuminated the deficiencies of Jamaica's education system. Let me first emphasise that teachers, by themselves, are not the system, and when education fails, all facets should be examined and held accountable.
Nonetheless, I would like to place my focus on teachers because of the pivotal role we play in providing students with optimal educational involvements. There are some educators who have proven to be quite adaptable and remarkably competent in catering to the overwhelming demands of online and distance learning. On the other hand, there are others who have buckled consequent to lack of resources and expertise, students' disinterest and absences, and a host of other challenges.
As a result, an anticipation to fully return to face-to-face teaching and learning is expressed by some teachers and other stakeholders of education. They have bemoaned causes for the failures of online and distance schooling, which range from lack of access to substandard academic experiences.
While I agree that the Jamaican education system was not, and is still not fully ready for online teaching and learning, I do wonder what education will look like when face-to-face schooling is resumed.
Before I interrogate some educators' anxiety to return to school (online/distance learning is not embraced as school and is seen as 'imposter education'), I must laud those who have invested robust efforts in ensuring they reached their students by whatever means, and their students received quality instructions.
Unsettlingly, I feel a sense of insecurity about whether or not education will improve when face-to-face school restarts. We still do not have adequate technological resources to equitably provide all students with cutting-edge 21st century educational experiences, and, unfortunately, I do get the feeling that some teachers are looking forward to return to their comfort zones.
Hence, I posed the question: Will we resume dinosaur education?
It is on this note I caution against the resistance of growth, flexibility, genuine interest in professional development, and a determination to engage diverse technological tools in providing students with effectual and relevant instructional services.
To what will our students return? In some classrooms, what classifies as the use of technology is the incorporation of YouTube videos and PowerPoint presentations. Notably, PowerPoint presentations have become the modern-day version of 'chalk and talk'. The presentations are packed with content and lack activities and an integration of other technological resources that are aimed at honing learners' critical thinking skills, aptitudes in problem-solving, and application of learning to authentic life situations.
One imperative the pandemic has reinforced is the need for educators to abandon their comfort zones and be willing to learn innovative approaches for teaching diverse students. If education is stuck in the 'BC (Before Computers) Era', and rarely comes into the present to minimally employ technology, teachers certainly will not cater to the digital citizens who should be prepared to ably function in a dynamic and technologically advanced world. Educators must completely move away from the archaic model of education in order to provide multifaceted teaching and facilitate meaningful learning. Importantly, the use of technology is critical to reformation, as students are developed into autonomous and ingenious learners.
Fortunately, there are many teachers who are bursting with zeal to employ varied technologies to not only make lessons stimulating, but also make certain students' academic needs are satisfied. However, they are sometimes prevented from achieving their goals because of lack of resources for themselves and their students. This is an age-old problem that the Ministry of Education has been seeking to address; however, much more resources are still needed.
I hope the Ministry of Education rapidly increases its provisions of resources and trainings. I will end by saying the ministry must adequately do its part, and the country needs to desist from expecting First World education from a system that is insufficiently equipped. As well, teachers should not use the lack as an excuse for a mediocre approach, but should seek to utilise, as effectively as possible, the resources that are available. Let all forms of dinosaurs be extinct.
Ardene Reid-Virtue is a senior lecturer at Church Teachers' College. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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