Education ministry to provide support for parents

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Education ministry to provide support for parents

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 18, 2020

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THE Ministry of Education is working on a plan to provide support for parents who, because of issues with literacy, are unable to help their children who are now being taught through online learning.

According to Cecille Young, education officer with responsibility for core curriculumin the ministry, the National Literacy Team is developing a National Parent Helpline to help parents provide the support children need with school work. The verdict is still out, though, on whether it will work.

“We have that concern as well... to what extent that will suffice. I don't know, but that is something we are doing,” Young told a virtual meeting of the Rotary Club of Kingston yesterday in addressing the topic 'Re-envisioning Literacy, Teaching and Learning in the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond'.

In addition to the support being provided for parents, the ministry has also been focusing on equipping teachers with the skills needed to successfully provide classes online when public schools resume operations on October 5. It is anticipated that the bulk of classes will need to be done outside of the classroom.

According to Young, teachers have since March, when Jamaica began experiencing the first few cases of COVID-19 prompting the early closure of schools, been engaged in various training initiatives. They have had sessions provided by the National College For Educational Leadership, The University of the West Indies, as well as various conferences and seminars run by Jamaican Diaspora groups.

She noted that, in the new landscape created by COVID-19, teachers have now been forced to re-examine their approach.

“For too long we have espoused a child-centred kind of pedagogy, we have asked that the teacher facilitate the students' learning. This has posed a challenge for many of our teachers; but now, suddenly, we are thrust in a situation where we have no choice,” she noted.

“It's time for us to re-envision what we value as legitimate teaching and learning. We must realise that learning occurs outside of the classroom. We must find a way to validate the learning that our children do outside of school. To emerge from this crisis with a better education system, we must meet those students where they are. We must validate the various ways of learning that they are familiar with and, in most instances, have mastered,” Young surmised.

She spoke of the value of social media in effectively reaching students in environments that they have already embraced.

“We have to build into our pedagogy the principles to support self-motivated learners; and it's done already for us. The children are learning already on their own. They are engaged on social media and on various platforms. We have not given much thought to them in the past but now we have no choice, we must learn about the capability of these spaces. We have to find a way to bridge the gap,” she added.

In the meantime, she said steps had also been taken to deal with concerns about the attention span of students when engaged online.

“This is new to us but we are working with The University of the West Indies and we are trying to address this in various ways.

“I know the early childhood departments will be creating their schedule such that the children will have psychosocial breaks in which they will do their movements and so on,” Young told the meeting.


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