Printed textbooks will soon be a thing of the past as Belize is looking to join other countries that have replaced secondary school books digitally. This initiative is one of several education topics that the visiting Antigua Education Minister, Michael Brown will be discussing with Education Minister, Patrick Faber.
“It’s common knowledge that throughout the commercial world it is sometimes easier to go digital than to print text so for instance most banks are doing e statements rather than printed statements, e-readers are big, generally the world is moving towards more digitized content. Similarly in education we cannot be left behind. Text books are produced this year and by next year they are out of date and you can no longer use them and you have to go on to the next edition. When you transition to an e platform what literally happens is you get the students more engaged primarily because rather than sitting in a book they are dealing with an interactive book where if you have a class that has several levels of readers the e- platform will be able to create the content for them. So if a child is unable to read about photosynthesis the possibility exists where in the e-platform they can watch a video about it while at the same time they can read on multiple levels. Eventually in Antigua our experience was that we started off with an external entity to build the textbooks but then the eventual aim is to build the capacity locally so that teachers could get involved in being able to write the textbooks. The cost savings of a five to ten year period are going to be tremendous because as you are aware books that come out in edition format ,editions are continuously being update. Publishers make the money but overall taxpayers lose. On an e-platform when books need to be update it is a matter of taking out a card, one a little bigger than the sim card in your phone, and the data is uploaded.”
Minister Faber says the time has come as the cost has posed a tremendous challenge for the parents especially when new editions of the textbooks are released.
“I think it is timely that we put in place electronic books. The cost of textbooks is a very big hindrance to secondary education in this country, also we see where students buy these textbooks and then the following year the textbooks is upgraded and they are not able to benefit from having the best information in these books but if it is electronic then the updates can be made quite easily so in terms of cost effectiveness and certainly in terms of staying up to date with the latest information this is a step in the right direction but I suspect that we will find that the initial cost are going to be pretty expensive compared to what we are spending now and of course a lot will depend on the government to put out this initial outlay for the electronic and digitizing of the textbook so it is a difficult task we are going to look at best practices this one of the reasons why we are pleased to have Minister Brown here and we are going to try to find the best fit for Belize because you know sometimes what is good for one area is not good for another area. In fact Minister Brown has already told me something that he said when they implemented it they found a new and better way to do it. I think he was hinting at using the chrome books as opposed to their own mechanism that they developed. Chrome books are sold widely in the united states so it would be just be a matter of using the platform and loading up the textbooks on them so we have a lot to learn, we have a lot of discussions in that that direction. While it is we want to be able to look at things from an electronic perspective we are not going to do so in haste that could possibly cause our education system to deteriorate and the quality to be lost.”
According to an online source, the reading materials in South Korean schools were digitized by 2015 while in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission aims for every student to be able to access e-texts by 2017.