Student Face-to -Face Classes

Students Being Left Behind with Face-to-Face Classes says JTA Head

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Renews call for blended approach amid pandemic

In this Jamaica Observer file photo, a student gets close to her device during a virtual class.

CONCERNED that fewer students were reached during the phased resumption of face-to-face classes that ended the school term, Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) President Jasford Gabriel is stressing the need for the main power and Internet service providers to step up their game in supporting online classes come January.

The call is especially urgent as it appears that the shift to online has now firmly taken root among the association's membership, 92 per cent of whom have been working from home since March.

In a December 11-12 JTA poll of more than 500 teachers across the island, 50 per cent said they want a blend of online and offline classes in the new school year, said Gabriel. Thirty per cent opted for online only, while the other 20 per cent — mostly those in rural areas where connectivity is a challenge — said they would prefer face-to-face classes.

Schools were shuttered in March as the Government put measures in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. In November, 17 schools were reopened for face-to-face classes in a pilot aimed at gauging the education system's ability to return to normal. The roll-out continued with another 125 schools added with about 10 days left for the end of the school term.

“What we saw coming out of the initial 17 schools [used in the pilot] did not support us, at this point in time, opening more schools for face to face. Apart from the spike we are seeing in COVID-19 [cases], the fact is that we are actually reaching fewer students by this modality than when we are fully online,” Gabriel argued.

Taking teachers offline to teach face-to-face classes, he stressed, displaces students who had been successfully attending online sessions. He maintained that the pilot had only seen about 30 per cent of students back in the classrooms.

“In my dialogue with many of these principals, and [during] many visitations, we discovered that it was the same students, basically, who were online that were turning out for face-to-face arrangement; and they were coming out in smaller numbers than [when classes were only being offered] online,” Gabriel said. “My research is telling me that in this short period [December 7 to 18] we are actually going to be connecting with less students, and the majority of them would be students that were online already anyway. And so, it would be creating more of a gap now in terms of the learning process.”

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