Education Ministry mulls keeping schools open during July/August break to address learning losses

Education Minister Priya Manickchand

With schools now fully reopened for face-to-face learning after two years of disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Education Ministry is considering the option of keeping schools opened during the upcoming July/August break to counter learning losses.

This was disclosed by Education Minister Priya Manickchand during an interview with the Department of Public Information today.

“We have to find ways to make sure these children get exposed to the hours of education they need…We may have to work into July/August,” she revealed.

“How we do that would be dependent on who’s willing to work,” the Education Minister added.

The full reopening of schools was executed in a phased approach. By the end of the first week of reopening, all classes were accommodated into the system. Mechanisms to allow for safe distancing and sanitisation have already been implemented at the various facilities.

This month’s complete reopening comes more than two years after the COVID pandemic struck, forcing closure to reduce an infection spread. Previously, some classes were facilitated in the classrooms while others remained online.

A few months ago, the Education Ministry launched its Operation Recovery within the 11 education districts to find those primary school students who had been continuously absent from school and those who had missed the recent National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) mock examinations.

Earlier this month, Education Minister Priya Manickchand began consulting with stakeholders to expand the programme.

It was explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the education sector in two fundamental ways: loss of instructional time and learning loss due to schools being closed for over 18 months. Manickchand had said that, recognising the need to mitigate the long-term effects of school closure, the Ministry moved towards a phased reopening.

An analysis of learners’ attendance data revealed that some learners did not attend school as required. Operation Recovery aims to get pupils back into school, and the objectives of the programme are to locate and retain learners, as well as to engage and support them.

Through encounters with students, it was learned that the reasons for absenteeism range from poverty to “carelessness”.

The Education Ministry has underscored that urgent, practical, sustained measures such as teaching and learning from a consolidated curriculum; the provision of textbooks; re-training of teachers; using technology in the classroom; and Operation Recovery would mitigate against the predicted loss to our students and country.