In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Education Ministry has begun to explore ways in which students could still engage in academic learning, even if they are away from the classroom.
Earlier this week, the new subject Minister, Priya Manickchand, visited and interacted with staff of the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) and the Guyana Learning Chanel, with the aim of developing and implementing a plan of action that would allow students to access learning virtually when they are at home.
It has been reported that the Education Ministry is currently preparing content for the Learning Channel, in collaboration with various agencies, for nursery year one (1) through to grade eleven (11). It was also noted that the MoE is looking to prepare programmes on a daily basis for the respective levels.
Certainly, the Guyana Learning Channel could play a greater role in effective and efficient delivery of education, and its use must be maximised by all stakeholders.
It was under the Bharrat Jagdeo Administration that moves were made to establish a Learning Channel to boost education delivery. This was part of a scheme under his government’s Educational Sector Strategy Plan (ESSP) to use technology to push distance education countrywide.
Over the last decade or so, there have been massive developments in Information and Communication Technology (ICTs) worldwide. There is now easy access to high-speed internet, which makes it possible to merge content on online platforms.
Telecommunications developments, particularly integrated voice, video and data systems, as well as satellite technologies, have made distance education a viable alternative to improving access to educational opportunities for learners of all ages, at all levels, and in diverse environments.
The entire developed world is rapidly moving towards a generation of advanced technology, and most would agree that the results have been tremendous. ICTs have been used for boosting education delivery and enhancing the health and security sectors, among other things. While the authorities here in Guyana had, for a very long time now, the correct vision to go this route, they have taken some time to do what was necessary to take advantage of ICTs, which could have been as a result of lack of the massive financial investments needed to establish the required infrastructure, and so on.
Some may question the effectiveness of distance education; more specifically, if this approach could produce more academically competent students, compared to students receiving traditional face-to-face instruction.
Research comparing distance education to traditional classroom teaching indicates that teaching and studying via distance can be as effective as traditional instruction when the methods and technologies used are appropriate to the instructional tasks.
However, while technology plays a key role in the delivery of distance education, educators must remain focused on instructional outcomes, not the technology of delivery. The key to effective distance education is focusing on the needs of the learners, the requirements of the content, and the constraints faced by teachers.
In addition to Mathematics and English, the Learning Channel must focus on science-based subjects, which seem to be in decline at the moment. Further, the content of these programmes must be designed in such a way as to make them very easy to grasp in a virtual learning environment.
Not only would such a channel benefit current students; it could also be a source of helping adults who would not have completed their formal education, so that they, too, would be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge required to cope in a society that is continuously changing and requires persons with a certain skills set to cope or to acquire a job.
Guyana is becoming a modernised country that is serious about building and improving on the human resources capabilities of its citizens. The use of the Learning Channel, therefore, to boost education delivery in these changing times is a step in the right direction.
The Education Minister reminded that when the Learning Channel was launched by former President and current Vice-President Dr Jagdeo, it was for a reason. The reason alluded to was to facilitate education delivery differently to make a positive impact on learners. As stated by the Education Minister, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the vision of Dr Jagdeo is “very, very relevant at this time”.