Should GES provide free books to students during school closures?

1. Not enough books for students…

A common criticism of GES at the moment is that their school closure provision for students requires access to technological devices, a strong internet connection and electricity. If you lack access to even one of these three elements, it is almost impossible to access the ongoing education they are providing.

GES’ response has been to insist that this is not the case and that they have put plans in place to provide homes with stationery and other resources that allow education to continue offline. As part of this plan, they have encouraged students who lack technology to “pick up a book” and continue their education by reading.

Here’s the issue though – what if students have no books to pick up? According to one of our polls from last week, nearly 60% of teachers said that this lack of access to books is an issue for their students.

Access to public libraries is limited even when they are open. But at present, students have nearly zero options for accessing free books. If they lack technology, they also lack access to any information to provide mental stimulation and ongoing education.

This concern has been passed onto GES with the plan to work to increase access to offline resources in addition to online provision. In the mean time, it may be valuable to encourage teachers and other individuals in your local community to donate even one spare book that they have to a local drive to collect books that can be shared with students.

2 . The examination dilemma

With details for national exams still awaiting confirmation, there is much concern about the fate of exam-level students this academic year.

78% of you told us that you believe the current delays to examinations will negatively affect your students’ achievement in them. 72% of you are also concerned that delays in assessment and the loss of teacher instruction will also put SHS students at a disadvantage when they embark on their tertiary education.

With all of this in mind, one potential solution to the current problem is to conduct exams remotely, via the internet. This would allow exams to be run without them undermining social distancing.

However, such an idea proved to be unpopular with teachers. Nearly 9-in-10 teachers stated their belief that exams should not be conducted this way.

This lack of support likely has two reasons. Firstly, there are understandable concerns about access to technology. Nearly 60% of you told us that less than a third of your students have access to the right technology to access GES’ remote learning. With such limited technology access, online exams would exclude many students from participation.

Secondly, teachers might reasonably worry that such a solution would disadvantage students who had limited experience using technology. A student who is used to having their own smartphone would inevitably feel more comfortable using the exam interface than a student who uses their parent’s phone once a week. This would introduce another unnecessary and unfair inequality into educational achievement.

3 . Careen Plan B

Nearly half of you told us that your short-term career plans have been disrupted by school closures.

These disruptions may include plans for promotion. With the recent Promotional Aptitude tests results released, the current school closures may be removing teachers’ ability to pursue promoted positions.

Plans to move school or move area are of course made much more difficult when movement itself is restricted.

What about long-term career plans? At the moment it is unlikely that school closures will not last long enough for these plans to be affected. This should hopefully mean that short-term plans will only be delayed by a matter of months.

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