The learning gap

Dominican education in times of covid.

by Iraira Rivera 10th grade

Ever since the arrival of the Coronavirus and the government issued national quarantine in mid-March, causing the temporary closing non-essential businesses, schools in the Dominican Republic have had to find other methods to educate their pupils. Thanks to technology, most schools in the private sector managed to smoothly transition to virtual classes with the help of platforms such as Zoom, Moodle, Microsoft Teams, and Google Classroom. However, it wasn’t so easy for students in the public sector, where more than half of all Dominican teachers don’t have access these tools and only 17% of students have access to technological resources.  

Nevertheless, a week after Abinader took office, it was revealed that the school year was set to start online on November 2nd and end 45 days later than usual. To assure previous problems that arose due to the spontaneousness of the situation wouldn’t happen again, the government announced they will provide laptops and tablets to all teachers and students in the country who currently don’t have one. This process will take some time as they must train the teachers on how to use these resources and wait for the devices to arrive as they’re imported.  

During the summer, many private schools worked on the ways they would impart their classes once the schoolyear started and were ready before the proposed date. The ministry of education said they could start as long as they apply the official teacher training program and accustom their students to the online environment. However, this brings the question of when these private sector schools will finish the schoolyear. While the Ministry of Education hasn’t clarified anything, if private schools get 45 more days of school, this would give private sector students an advantage, being able to cover more topics or go more in depth in harder subjects. This would further increase the gap between the quality of public and private education in the DR. 

Meanwhile, there are plans to improve physical facilities. While students are attending classes virtually at home, the government will work on ensuring the facilities are suitable for their eventual return. 

The government also plans to start massive training for teachers on September 18th, where they’ll be taught how to use computer programs in order to teach virtually. Additionally, they’re planning to do something similar to Mexico’s education plan, where they transmit classes through the radio and television. Students will have access to multiple channels according to their grade level. This plan also has it shortcomings, considering not everyone owns a tv or a radio and, the people who do, might have multiple children at home but only one of these devices, meaning they’d have to choose which channel to watch.  

This is a time of great uncertainty that forces schools to rethink and look for new ways to educate, requiring the development of not only new educational models but new skills meant for a globalized and digital world. The current model gives great importance to presenteeism and using teachers as experts who transmit knowledge. However, current trends seem to focus on self-learning, learning how to learn, and flexibility, where the student does not necessarily have to learn facts written down in a textbook but perhaps has to learn to discover new knowledge through experimentation. This pandemic is a catalyst for the profound changes the current educational model and the learning environments in which this model operates have to go through and it might be an opportunity for the Dominican Republic to transform, and thereby raise, its educational level.   

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