by Roy R. Morris
A move is now on to provide all 23,000-plus secondary school children in Barbados with e-readers.
The initiative, which is being led by the heads of the island’s 22 secondary schools, is designed to eliminate the headaches of issuing each child with nearly two dozen textbooks annually, and eliminate the tens of thousands each institution spends of book replenishment each year.
One of the education administrators who expressed delight at the progress made on the project so far noted they were aiming to have the e-readers in students hands not later than September 2014, “but sooner than that if all goes according to plan.”
One principal explained that while the evolving of the Textbook Revolving Loan Scheme into an e-reader based programme started with principals who clearly understood the benefits such a shift would bring, they all recognised that before it becomes a reality the Ministry of Education would have to be brought on board as a major player.
In the meanwhile though, the principals explained that given the continued dramatic fall in the prices of e-readers versus the escalating cost of traditional textbook, the change would significantly enhance the mechanism for supplying students with reading material.
Currently, a principal told Barbados TODAY, schools spend as much as $80,000 annually to top up the resources of their textbook storage rooms.
“Depending on the school, a year group could be between 180 and 200 students,” the principal said. “Let’s say a school is replacing a single book for $20, you can see already how expensive maintaining the system can be.”
At the same time, he added, most textbooks cost much more than that, with many of those supplied to students taking CAPE exams costing upwards of $100.
The e-reader initiative, however, in addition to making the daily load of students lighter, will give them instant access to the latest editions of texts, while eliminating excuses about not being issued with books or forgetting books at home.
Another principal, who also expressed “great excitement” about the project, pointed out that the digital approach would allow teachers to take more imaginative teaching techniques into the classroom.
Already the principals have brought on board a partner with the capacity to digitise all books in use in the schools that are not now available in an e-reader former; as well as a partner with the capacity to supply all the hardware that would be necessary to get the project going.
“I am very optimistic that we will have this initiative up and running by September of 2014, but it is also possible that it could be in place even earlier — but certainly not later than September next year,” one principal told Barbados TODAY.
Already, on their Facebook page officials at Queen’s College Parent Teacher Association are asking parents how they feel about replacing the textbooks their children now use with tablet computers. Barbados TODAY understands that one of the recommendations of persons involved in the initiative is to ensure that each device is adequately insured to cover events of damage or loss.
Principal of Combermere School Vere Parris, first raised the issue of digital textbooks during speech day last year. This year at speech day, while not divulging much, he noted the “time has arrived faster than those who heard my call last year would imagine”.
“It is very likely that in some of our schools, digitized text books may soon be used. I will say no more on that at this particular stage, just to say that’s on the horizon,” he said during the event. firstname.lastname@example.org