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MSJ: Education Ministry’s proposed online schooling will exacerbate inequalities

“[…] We are deeply concerned that the decision by the Ministry of Education to implement a programme of home-based learning conducted by teachers using an ‘online platform’ will seriously discriminate against the children whose parents are either unemployed or whose incomes are barely able to put food on the table.

“These children are more likely not to have the required access to devices and wi-fi to enable them to participate in the programme…”

The following press release on the potential for ‘widening inequalities’ due to the Ministry of Education’s online education plan was submitted to Wired868 by David Abdulah, the political leader for the Movement of Social Justice (MSJ):

Photo: A young boy at school.

The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) has to date refrained from commenting on specific policies of the government that are meant to address the Covid-19 pandemic. We have, unlike some other political parties and political activists, adopted this approach because this health crisis must be above divisive politics, especially given our diversity and a political culture based on ethnicity.

The MSJ over the past six weeks has instead focused on offering very concrete and carefully thought out proposals to deal with the social and economic crisis that we knew from very early on would inevitably develop because of the nature of the global pandemic.

There are, however, increasing signs that the government’s policies, which are supposed to address the fallout from the pandemic, will result in growing inequality. This will exacerbate the existing structures of inequality—of wealth and income; of educational opportunity—to name but two. It will also see many, many more people pushed into poverty and expand the numbers of citizens, especially the youth, who see little future for themselves in their country.

We are deeply concerned that the decision by the Ministry of Education to implement a programme of home-based learning conducted by teachers using an ‘online platform’ will seriously discriminate against the children whose parents are either unemployed or whose incomes are barely able to put food on the table.

These children are more likely not to have the required access to devices and wi-fi to enable them to participate in the programme.

Photo: A student engages in online learning.

Many of these children have parents or a single parent who may have to work (example as a security guard) and therefore will not be at home to supervise their studies. Many of these children have been or are in schools that have already been proven to do poorly when it comes to exams such as the SEA and CSEC.

If they had difficulty absorbing a curriculum designed to be delivered in a classroom setting with a teacher present, how will they now suddenly cope with an online programme?

This is not because these children are less intelligent than any others, but rather because the structure of our education system and the nature of their social and economic circumstances have resulted in them being disadvantaged. The Ministry of Education’s new policy will exacerbate all of the problems that these children already experience.

The MSJ calls on the government to identify concretely what will be done to ensure that greater inequality will not be the result. We are in great danger of creating yet another ‘missing generation’. To avoid that we need clear thinking and the involvement of all stakeholders.

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4 comments

  1. Earl Best

    So, gentlemen of the MSJ, there is doubtless merit in your observation but it does not go far enough. What is the alternative to what govt proposes? Should we prevent EVERYBODY from trying to move ahead because SOME are unable to?

  2. David I share your concerns but I am very disappointed that you did not suggest any ideas that would aid in diminishing the learning divide. Proferring some ideas at this time would at least start the discussion that must eventually take place.

    • I have some suggestions. Some of what the kids will learn is the same from school to school and year after year eg algebra, english. These things don’t change because one kid goes to a prestige school and the other to a so called bad school whatever the hell that is. So why not create a youtube channel where local teachers upload videos explaining the different topics, and the parents would be expected to supervise that their kids are in fact learning, and if the kids don’t understand something literally google/youtube etc. it. I learned some good math tricks on youtube from some school teacher from India who talks with an Indian english tongue and who shakes her head Indian style. If it is youtube videos the kids don’t need a laptop or pc, a smartphone even a cheap one or a tablet can stream youtube videos. Now if it were a learning portal that is when you probably need some kind of pc.
      For many years teachers up and down the country spent many hours explaining things in a class room over and over, and then the same stuff to the next set of students that come in the year after so why was this never recorded and put online for emergency learning. We of course have the benefit of hindsight, but now we must use this experience and prepare, because the next crisis will always come, maybe one day the supposedly impossible happens and a hurricane huffs and puffs and blows us away, or maybe there is a war, we don’t know, it’s good to be prepared.

  3. David Abdullah is on point in stating that “the Ministry of Education’s new policy will exacerbate all of the problems that these children already experience”. He has, however, failed to provide a recommendation or suggestions which would achieve the required balance. All he offers is deep concern.

    Identifying flaws in any given scenario is elementary and we have proven to be masters of so doing. Please do not ask us what should be done to remedy any situation. That is for someone else to do.