Education Ministry to distribute 7,000 more laptops to students

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

HARD TO FIND: Customers look at computers and laptops on display at PriceSmart at MovieTowne in Port of Spain in September 2020. As more students and workers rely on the devices for day-to-day activities and learning, laptops have become expensive and scarce in TT with many retailers reporting that they have been sold out in the past weeks. File photo /Angelo Marcelle

The Ministry of Education is awaiting the arrival of 7,000 more laptops which will be distributed to students who have been selected using the ministry’s means test.

During a press conference at the ministry’s St Vincent Street, Port of Spain head office on Friday, director of the information and communication technology division Corey Belfon said the ministry is expecting the devices to be delivered in July 2022.

Director of the newly established educational technology unit Avenelle Fortune-Johnsons also said the pandemic emphasised the importance to build educational resilience into the education sector.

She said the ministry is developing its Student Learning Management System (SLMS)which will assist teachers in balancing the e-classroom and the physical environment and support a seamless transition between both modes of teaching.

She said the system will be rolled out in a phases basis. “We are looking at phased implementation with the first phase of schools, hopefully being able to pilot their experiences, by the close of this term (in July). We hope to have all schools on board by September 2022.

The system currently targets 7,000 students and 100 teachers in 14 schools.

Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said digital school records is pivotal to the ministry’s efforts for a blended education system. “That has been one of the sticking points, being able to formulate data to digital formats,” she said, adding the ministry hopes to have 70 schools updated by September.

Belfon also highlighted some of the initiatives conducted by the ministry geared toward the digital transformation efforts of the ministry.

He said the ministry, in collaboration with the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT), during the pandemic had donated 10,000 devices in addition to 13,000 devices from corporate donors.

Students and teachers also benefited from 10,000 MiFi devices, and an additional 20,000 laptops for students and teachers from the government.

Belfon said the ministry has engaged in wireless expansion at 134 schools with a budget of $7.3 million, upgrading the network infrastructure at the schools to facilitate e-testing and other services. He said the project has been completed in 39 schools and the remainder is expected to be completed by June 2022.

He said the ministry, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), are also engaged in a connectivity drive with 2 schools from each educational district. The drive will allow the schools to access secure internet hubs in their community schools. He said another 14 schools have been identified for site visits to expand the programme and phase one of schools will go live by July 2022.

Belfon also said the ministry is also working to complete the Secondary Entrance Examination (SEA) portal for the retrieval of SEA results which is set to be online in time for SEA 2022 results in July.

He said a student management system, piloted in 70 schools, is aimed at digitising school records and digital attendance.