ACTING Chief Education Officer Dr Kasan Troupe has expressed concern that scores of students and some teachers are not taking advantage of electronic books (e-books) that have been procured by the Ministry of Education.
Addressing a post-Cabinet media briefing on Wednesday, Troupe noted that the education ministry has budgeted $1 billion to acquire hard copy and e-books for this year. This is $800 million more than last year.
According to Troupe, while supply issues have prevented some hard copy books from getting into the schools, more than 66,000 licences for e-books have been procured by the education ministry, and these are being distributed based on responses from the schools.
She underscored that the e-books are available and urged principals to make the time to support students in downloading them.
“Alarmingly, principals have expressed concern about material not being available and the books are not being used by the students,” said Troupe.
“We have oversight, based on the facilities in place, and we have seen that books have not been accessed by our students. So we have called our principals, we have spoken to them about that, and we have given them…access to the platforms so that they too can be aware of what’s happening,” added Troupe.
She said to ensure greater use of the e-books the education ministry will be sending teams into the schools where the e-books have not been activated.
“And we are going to set up the sessions ourselves to put the students in the lab and to get them to download their textbooks and to use their textbooks. We can see usage, we can see downloads — that is how we are moving in the Ministry of Education — so we can account for what we are investing in our children.
“We have also had some of our suppliers agree to provide tablets for schools that are moving apace with downloading so those who (within the next two months) have 90 per cent or more, we are going to reward them for that,” noted Troupe.
The acting chief education officer pointed out that the students selected to be given e-books were not selected by the education ministry.
“For students who were assigned licences for e-books, they were submitted to us by our schools and we gave the criteria: The student must have a device, the student must not get an e-book and a hard copy — and those are some of the things we have to work with.”
Troupe told the media briefing that some teachers were also not taking advantage of the teaching material prepared in electronic format.
“We have also made some resources available to our teachers for the math text. We have provided that in e-book form and we are not seeing those being downloaded as well,” informed Troupe.
Troupe’s statement on Wednesday came weeks after Minister of Education Fayval Williams announced that the ministry is to evaluate how students are doing with the e-books so that a decision can be taken on how to proceed.
Williams noted that the education ministry was using e-books for a third year, with the use this year being better than in previous years.
She explained that the ministry sends the download link to the students, which she said has proven to be more efficient.
“Only one download is required of the student and the book will be on their device for the year,” Williams explained.
She said the ministry continues to work with schools to understand their particular challenges while the schools, in turn, have indicated the mix of books versus e-books that they would like — and the ministry has been accommodative.
Williams also said Cabinet has approved the award of a contract to provide e-books for students in grades seven to 11 under the Ministry of Education’s National Textbook Loan Scheme.