Don’t lock out expelled students from online classes!

EDUCATION Minister Fayval Williams has asked that students who are expelled from public schools be engaged virtually, instead of being completely locked out of the education system.

She was speaking on issues surrounding absenteeism among students at a virtual post-sectoral debate press briefing, yesterday.

“It can’t be that a student getting expelled for whatever reason [and] that’s the end of the line with regard to his or her education. Those are tough situations but we have to bring solutions to them. We have the technology; let us use it. In particular for those students who have been expelled. If they can’t be in the school environment physically, they can be there virtually continuing their education. We are in a different world right now,” she stated.

On Wednesday in her 2021/22 sectoral presentation in the House of Representatives, the minister bemoaned the growing problem of expulsion from school, pointing out that between 2010 and 2017 the percentage of students who found themselves outside the school system had moved from six per cent to 10 per cent.Boys were found to be two times more likely to be expelled than girls.

Yesterday, Williams stressed again the need to engage boys differently in the learning process, noting that one of the main reasons that boys quit school is their lack of interest in education.

She said the Government was not pushing for boys to be taught differently as a matter of policy, but was rather urging administrators and educators to intervene and accommodate them accordingly.

“Its not a push for gender-based learning, it’s a recognition that our boys have fallen behind, they’re not achieving as well as they should be, so we have to acknowledge that maybe they have a different learning style, maybe they are more tactile, maybe they need more practical things to do and we should not ignore that. As the teacher, or principal, if the boys are falling behind in a particular area, then you have to work on that…wherever possible, if you can, you should do it,” she explained.

On Wednesday, Williams said gender-based teaching and learning, while not popular internationally, had been successfully experimented with here, by some schools. She stressed that the education sector was in crisis, exacerbated by the pandemic, and therefore various methods must be used to engage boys.

The education minister said also that pregnancy should not be a reason for permanent drop-out from the education system. Government statistics show that 49 per cent of girls who drop out of school before reaching grade 11 was due to pregnancy.

Williams said the programmes in schools to reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy are not working as they should, and that this needs to be taken on with “more vigour and honesty”, and involve boys as well.

Meanwhile, she expressed dismay at some of the other reasons for absenteeism, such as rain, and schools being closed. “We have 190 school days in the year; a school should not be closed without permission… there are many children who cite rain as a problem for not coming to school. I was alarmed by the numbers in rural areas [who were absent because of rain]. We have to use the technology. If rain is preventing a child from not coming to school, then that child should be able to stay at home and use the technology,” she said.


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