We ignore available technology

August 12, 2012 | By | Filed Under Features / Columnists, My Column 

In the coming days many parents will be celebrating with their children over the examinations results. They will sit back and say that it was worth every cent they spent. Some will say that they now have to look even further ahead.
For most others, the issue would be about textbooks and other accessories to get their children to school, some for the first time.  Indeed, at this time there are those parents who are so excited that their children would be leaving the home for the first time that they pull out all the stops. The sad thing is that this enthusiasm does not continue throughout the child’s school career.
Clothing these days is not so much a problem because the government aids with the school uniform. What started out as a voucher for needy parents has now spread to every parent with a child at school. It has helped but I saw those parents who allowed their children to modify whatever uniform was given. I can only assume that there were parents who were more concerned with how their child looked when compared to the fashion conscious.
I could not help remarking at the large number of subjects the children write at the Caribbean Secondary Examinations Council examinations. The top student demonstrated her proficiency with 16 Grade One performances. Later in life she would not be pursuing studies in more than two or three of those subjects.
Recently, one of my old friends said that it is nice to know that the children are proficient in so many subject areas and that they would be in better standing later in life. However, another colleague said that the time wasted on what he called extraneous subject areas could have been spent on more meaningful studies.
Just this past week I came to the conclusion that our students could have done so much better had the authorities really concentrated on the resources at their disposal. Textbooks are the key to any academic pursuit and these days, given the technology, there is no need for children to be walking around with book bags weighing tons. There are e-books.
I found out that just about every book is on line. I was sitting with my brother-in-law and he was preparing some Maths programme using his laptop. The book was there, every page. And each could be accessed with the click of a mouse.
When President Bharrat Jagdeo announced money for what he called the One Laptop Per Family programme there were those who found the programme far-fetched. President Jagdeo put some of these thoughts into words when he accused me of contending that the children would use the computer for video games.
However, I distinctly remember saying that the computer would replace the textbooks. With the government giving each child a computer the scope for learning would be enhanced. But if the truth be told parents would have had to be playing an important role and for many, this would not be the case.
A few days ago the House voted $170 Million for IT development but it voted even more for textbooks. We have teachers who concentrate more on lessons and parents chasing after these teachers. I saw how the computer could have all but eradicated this drive for extra lessons.
There was my brother-in-law from his living room using this e-book to set questions and forwarding them to the student. What is more, he explained that given the technology, he could flash whatever he has on his computer onto a television screen. I was impressed.
Of course, this calls for rigid supervision. The teacher must be prepared to work and the student must be prepared to learn. I then said to myself that if there were these things in my day at school I might have been a better person. But then again, I might not have been. I did not have the distractions of television and Face Book and the Internet.
This could be the defining moment in the education sector. Teachers would be easily monitored because the interested parent would know if his or her child is getting an exhibition.
Three things would be achieved. There would not be the sizeable expenditure on the textbooks, the need for storage and distribution. There would be no child who could say that he or she forgot a textbook or even homework.
What is even more appealing is the fact that children from the confines of their homes could actually share knowledge with each other. They could even access teachers outside the classroom.
These things made me realize how underdeveloped we are in our little country. At present failure in Mathematics and Science are going through the floor. There are simply not enough teachers.  It is here that I saw the benefit of the computer. I was at a regional meeting of Queen’s College alumni and they all wondered why it was that Guyana was not resorting to online teaching.
For them, online teaching is as common as a cold. But for Guyana it is as remote as Mars on which the Americans recently landed a probe. With all the people whom we have recruited with IT specialization the computer should have been more prevalent.
Minister Priya Manickchand is a modern person. It may do well for her to really push her colleagues in the Cabinet. Guyana, in this modern age, can ill-afford the ridiculous low pass rates in Maths and Science.
But then again, the teachers should have been making use of the smart phones that proliferate.

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