The digitization of the Bahamian educational system is crucial. So, said Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd on Wednesday (October 21), during his contribution to the House of Assembly.
He touted the adjusted form of learning for students as significant, and one that ensures top-rate education for all and sundry.
“The digitization of the Bahamian educational system is crucial. It creates a platform where every Bahamian student has access to a quality education – a commitment we have made to ourselves and to the world.
“For too many years, thousands of students in our outlying communities have suffered the deprivation of instructions in critical subjects such as Math, Science and others. With technology, those same students, through e-learning or distance learning, like their counterparts in the urban centers, would also benefit from a quality 21st Century education.
“Thus, in September, 2019, the MOE launched the Virtual School, the first of its kind in the Bahamas and the region, serving the needs of some 600 students initially, growing to over 1700 by March of this year. Students in Mayaguana, Rum Cay, Acklins, and some of the Exuma Cays are receiving instruction via the Virtual School.
“However, Mr. Speaker, the advent of this pandemic resulted in the ministry having to fast-track its digitization efforts. Teams from BTC, Cable Bahamas, Aliv, Walkers Industries, One on One, Global Sun, The Department of Technology and Transformation (DTaD), and the Ministry of Education worked arduously over the last several months to provide a robust system to facilitate a quality education,” he said.
Lloyd noted also that as a result of the pandemic, the enrollment in the Virtual School increased from the 1700+ to over 48,000, virtually overnight.
He noted that the VS was indeed a God-send, for without it, the country’s educational apparatus, and the lives of tens of thousands of students would have suffered near irrecoverable loss.
OPENING OF 2020/2021 SCHOOL YEAR
“Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, On Tuesday, October 13th, 2020, the nearly 47,000 public school students resumed their learning after a long pandemic and summer break. Most private schools had begun the new school year weeks earlier.
“While attempting to access the Mministry’s virtual learning portal on that first day, many were unable to do so. The LMS System had been loaded, tested and re-tested to meet the access demand of 60k students over a 60-minute time period.
However, what in fact happened, was that within a 10- minute period On Tuesday, the 13th, between 8:39am and 8:49am, some 22k Users – Educators and Students - hit the access button, overloading the system, resulting in the systems defence mechanism being activated and therefore shutting down. Within hours the system was restored, but by that time, most of the students and the teachers had moved to an alternate learning platform – such as Zoom, Edmodo or Microsoft Teams – to continue their instructions. The ministry commends our teachers and students for this,” the minister explained.
He noted that by Tuesday evening, the system was pretty much fully operational, but the ministry decided to shut the system down, and expand its capability through Tuesday evening and night, so that it could meet the demand of the 60k users within a whatever time period - 10-minute period.
This was done, and by Wednesday morning, October 14, the system was fully restored.
“Mr. Speaker it must be acknowledged that with the implementation of a new system to accommodate tens of thousands of individuals, growing pains are inevitable. Evidence from around the globe indicates that the installation of EMIS systems is usually a two-three-year process.
“The Bahamas is doing it within months. The entire Ministry Teams, led by our PS Mrs. Lorraine Armbrister, and Director, Mr. Marcellus Taylor, and Mrs. Sharmaine Sinclair, with all the DSs, principals, teachers and students, deserve tremendous appreciation for the tireless efforts they have made in getting us to this point. Make no mistake, Mr. Speaker, it has been a monumental task, for which I stand very proud,” Lloyd acknowledged.
This system, which is responsible for collating information regarding student and teacher confidential records, as of Friday, October 16, 2020, has been populated with 45, 277 student user records and 3,686 staff user records, issuing user names and passwords to more than 43,000 students and 2,900 teachers. By now, all registered students should have obtained usernames and passwords from their respective schools.
“Mr. Speaker, in today’s world the EMIS is vital. It is indispensable to the efficient management of schools easier for school administrators, but it will efficiently inform decisions surrounding policies while advancing the ministry’s level of reporting to local and international stakeholders. Moreover, the data in the EMIS is migrated on to the LMS to accommodate the teaching and learning process.
“The LMS – or Learning Management System – is the platform that facilitates the teaching and learning process. It is currently being used for virtual instruction primarily on the islands of New Providence, Abaco, and Eleuthera and houses educational resources such as the instructional kits which are a collection of digital resources designed for every subject and every grade level; including power point presentations, content video, anchor charts, lesson notes, handouts, worksheets among other resources. Some of the kits have already been uploaded while others are being processed.
“Mr. Speaker, The LMS permits educators, policy makers, students and their parents to monitor student progress, which in turn gives a more accurate and timely assessment of a students’ performance,” the education minister said.