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Schools to engage in distance learning

Pre-primary and primary schools are set to begin the new academic year on September 7 while secondary schools will reopen on October 5. 

Pre-primary and primary schools are set to begin the new academic year on September 7 while secondary schools will reopen on October 5.  The students  will not being going into the classroom but they will be getting official assignments from their respective teachers.  Minister of Education Patrick Faber made several announcements this afternoon and outlined how this new approach will work as they are looking at distance education.

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture: “The official start date for those students approved for doing home schooling is Monday September 7th and we will know already that tertiary level institutions have already been given approval for them to start online in fact some have started there are others that may still need to begin. The Ministry of course will continue to monitor public health situations and schools and parents will be informed when schools will be allowed to deliver face to face instruction. I repeat again pre school and primary schools Monday September 7th, secondary schools Monday October 5th by distanced only. So what do we mean when we say distance only ? Well for pre and primary schools this distanced education means that we will primarily focus on paper based learning so that primary and pre school teachers will develop learning activities and assignments for students based on the school curriculum and available student text books; you know we have a free textbook and work book program in the Ministry of Education this is what they will use. Parents will be asked to pick up these items from the school or from a designated pick up point that is identified by the school that your child attends. Parents will return completed assignments and assessments to the school or to the designated drop off point identified by the school. The month of September will be a learning recovery period where assigned work and assessments will be used to determine where students are and to give them work that will help bring them up to to the expected level. Schools will be expected to provide regular feed back and guidance to students and parents on students’ work.”

For those parents who choose to go with home-schooling, the ministry has approved a start date of September 7.  The Ministry of Education is currently working on an initiative that will assist students with electronic devices to carry out their online assignments.  According to Minister Faber the ministry is working closely with Digi.

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture: “At the secondary level which we have indicated will open on Monday October 5th distanced education will be done primarily online. The Ministry of Education will be distributing digital learning devices and electronic text books to all secondary school students who do not have access to those resources. The Ministry is also working with Belize Telemedia Limited to identify suitable arrangements for secondary school students who are currently without internet connectivity so that they can have access to their school’s online resources. And yes you heard me right the Ministry of Education will be sourcing digital devices that will be shared with those students who don’t have access. At this point we’re able to for that time of October 5th I believe we can source an initial minimum of about 8,000 digital devices that students who don’t have a device, don’t have connectivity will be able to utilize, those who have such devices will be able to use their own devices to access online learning. The month of September secondary school teachers will receive training in online teaching and the use of digital platforms, they’re also expected to develop online lessons, learning activities and assignments for the subjects that they teach. Once schools officially reopen for distanced education in October students will engage in synchronous and asynchronous lessons and access the digital resources prepared for them by their teachers. The teachers are expected to give regular feedback to students on their performance and to offer any additional support needed to the student.”

Unlike the first phase of Covid-19, the Ministry of Education will not be printing or distributing works for pre-primary, primary or secondary schools.  In this instance the school will be responsible for the learning materials for students.  The ministry, however, will be making a contribution to assist the schools with five dollars per student.  It is quite a donation considering that there are currently a count of 300 primary schools and 57 high schools in the country with at least twenty five students per class.

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture: “For primary school you’ve heard me say that the primary school will prepare home based learning packages and I can hear our teachers and those schools already saying “Well how will we get this to them?” Remember the last time it was the government that paid for the printing of the materials that were circulated for home based learning well this time we’re asking the schools to do it and as a result of that the government will make available $5 per student so that a very economical package can be put together for every student. This will be done via the management of schools so it will be $5  per student and just let me say Prime Minister that the way we’ve been able to sources these monies you remember there’s a regular September treat where the children get from time immemorial you get a cake and lemonade you used to get – well it was $2 per child and there are other grants that we give per child to the management so we’re now compiling those and we’re saying we can offer $5 per child to those managements so that they can have some support in terms of getting these printed materials out.”

As it relates to the tertiary students, Minister Faber explained that Digi is working on providing data packages for them.

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture: “The government with its partner Digi has arranged for 6,000 students to be helped with data so they can access this to assist in their online studies. 6,000 students. Those 6,000 students will receive a data package from Digi that is valued at $70 per package it is 25GB of data. We’ve worked it out with our friends at Digi so that it will not be limited for juts thirty day usage they can stretch out a little bit longer they’ve said sixty or maybe even longer so that if you’ve not completed your 25GB when it becomes available and the month finishes on you it can be extended to a further time and we’re hoping that we can get this going by September at some point so while I know that students may be taking a licking right now paying for that data there is some relief that you can apply for and again we’re doing this for 6,000 students we ask you to pay attention to the media so you can learn how to access this.”