The reversal of a ban on cell phone use in schools is not going down well with teachers, who contend there are already too many problems associated with smart phones at school.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones last Saturday announced that a new policy on mobile technology use in nursery, primary and secondary schools would be ready in time for the new academic year in September, paving the way for students to use their mobile devices.
However, this has angered the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU), which accused Jones of not only excluding the union from consultations on the issue “even though the teachers would be responsible policy implementation”, but also flatly disregarding the teachers’ previous objection.
“We were asked several years ago to submit our position and we made it clear to the ministry that we were not in favour of it [cell phones in schools] and that was years ago. So I don’t know where this policy has come from and how long ago he [Jones] has been in contact with these new groups, but we have not seen any new policy.
“I really don’t know what he is talking about, but we have not been included. It is really indicative of how they have been treating the teachers’ unions generally. There are many things in terms of educational planning and implementation that we were once involved with at a level that does not exist anymore,” BSTU President Mary Redman told Barbados TODAY in an interview on Tuesday.
The Minister of Education has long held that the ban was outdated and contradictory, since it suggested one set of rules for teachers and a different set for students.
On the other hand, teachers have contended that mobile phone use would be a distraction, and would worsen an already serious problem of ill-discipline, as well as force teachers to act as phone police.
They also point to cases where students use their mobile phones to record sexual acts in school toilets, as well as fights, and share the videos on social media.
“We do not support cell phone use in schools because of all of the problems that we know of, all the problems that currently exist without there being a stated permission for students to use cell phones. There is the issue of all of the fights that we see recorded and put on Facebook for posterity,” Redman said.
“We know how those cell phones can be abused, we also know of the problems that they cause in terms of theft in schools. It is a distraction and I do not know why the minister would be insisting on this.”
The BSTU’s position runs contrary to that of the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools, whose president, Vere Parris, has gone on record as saying that his organization had been part of the deliberations on the new policy two years ago.
Parris has argued that the issue was not one of cell phone use, but rather an incorporation of technology into the school system.