The expansion of the reopening of schools across Antigua and Barbuda for face-to-face learning today is expected to go quite smoothly, according to Director of Education, Clare Browne.
All private and public secondary and primary schools as well as preschools and daycare centres are opening for classes for all levels, following receipt of the green light to do so by the Cabinet last Wednesday.
Browne said he is confident that the principals, teachers and all those involved in the education system are “fully prepared” to accept students for the third and final term of the 2020-2021 academic year.
“Many principals and senior teachers have spent much time working out instructional plans for school that would have been tested during the first team of teaching in September to December last year. These principals and teachers would have tested and adjustments made to make them better. The second term was aborted because of an epidemiological crisis beyond their control,” he remarked.
Browne revealed that since the announcement was made two weeks ago to reopen schools in a phased manner allowing only fifth and sixth grades of primary schools and fourth and fifth forms in secondary schools to attend in-person teaching, the entire education system had been preparing for a full roll-out of all students since then. These included meetings with the principals of all public schools as well as meetings with representatives of the Private Educational Institutions of Antigua and Barbuda (PEIAB), which a new organisation grouping these institutions.
“I am persuaded that the principals of private and public schools are ready to revert to the instructional plans implemented in the first term which have been strengthened and tweaked to suit the individual schools in which they are being implemented,” he observed.
The Director of Education was also very complimentary towards the principals and teachers who he said have responded well to the crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. “I am very proud of our principals and teachers in the manner in which they have weathered the crisis; no university could have prepared you for what was to come with this pandemic,” he noted.
Over the next few weeks, Browne said the focus will be on helping students to successfully navigate the CSEC examinations for those writing those exams and for those Grade Six students to be successful at the National Assessment exams. He added that for Grade Six students these exams are not for ‘pass’ purposes but for placement in the secondary school system come September.
For all other students, the focus will be on completing the curriculum. “The focus here will be on filling those gaps in the teaching of the curriculum to our students. We want to ensure that all students are taught the completed curriculum for his/her level,” he remarked.
Browne took time to single out the relationship the ministry enjoys with the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers (ABUT) and other stakeholders in education. He said there may be times when there are public spats between the ministry and the union but that they do not take away from the good relations the two entities.
Similarly, he spoke to the importance of private schools to the educational system. He stated that the government schools cannot accommodate all the students in the country and this is where private schools assist by providing education to students opting for school within the private school system.
He however had a stern warning to parents who failed to live up to their obligations to these institutions. “Some parents are failing to pay their school fees as required and this is not good. When private schools fail, this puts additional burdens on the public school system and helps no one,” he declared.
Browne is issuing an appeal to all involved in the education system to be vaccinated as this is the only sure way to defeat the virus and for the country to return to normality.