However, students will be at home in front of computers, tablets and smartphones this semester. It has been the state of affairs since March 2020, when a Patrick Faber-led Ministry of Education made the decision to allow students to learn in the comfort of their homes. But in the seventeen months since, Faber argues that his successor, Francis Fonseca has not done much to improve learning opportunities for children during the pandemic. Here’s how he explained it during Tuesday’s press conference.
Patrick Faber, UDP Party Leader: “While you’ve heard me speak about the dire situation of COVID19 and I think we cannot fault the government for making the kind of decision not to convene face to face we can certainly criticise them for putting us in this position yet again without being prepared. You see when it happened under the UDP’s watch we did not know what to expect and we did not have the kind of time. Had the administration followed through on what the UDP’s plans were to offer proper distanced learning – and we scrambled remember we had TV programs we had printed literature and worksheets whatever you want to call them. We started the phablet distribution initiative, we were looking to engage publishers in offering digitized textbooks on these devices for high schoolers. There was DigiLearn so by now high schoolers should have been fully equipped digitally where teachers would have been able to give instruction, students would have been able to do their reading and preparation on the various different platforms that would have been offered through Microsoft Office I think it was. There was a suite of about twenty five software applications that would have assisted students but all of that was thrown to the water. At least I certainly have not heard of their plan. So to say now seventeen months after ‘Okay we’re going to now have continue with distanced learning.’ and you had already gotten people out of the planning mode to go distanced, that we would have gone face to face the government is caught with its pants down again. That is a situation that is very unfortunate.”
Grant-aided and government secondary schools will start the new academic year on August twenty-three while pre-primary and primary schools will open on August thirty. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science & Technology says that face-to-face instruction will begin when it is deemed safe to transition into hybrid learning. Students will be allowed to attend face-to-face classes – when that restarts – even if they do not have school uniforms and other accessories.