Home learning emerged in the midst of the fight against COVID-19 to ensure that teaching could continue in the Dominican Republic, where the student and their family are at the centre of the teaching-learning process.
This is a strategy designed by the Ministry for Education with the support of the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other national and international agencies.
It is called “Aprendemos en casa” (Let’s learn at home) and the challenge has been putting it in place for the 2020–2021 school year, amidst high levels of scepticism from society.
The strategy has three main components, as explained by Unicef representative to the country Rosa Elcarte: the teacher, the workbooks and the multimedia resources broadcast through television, radio and digital platforms.
The Dominican Republic will dedicate 50 billion pesos (862 million dollars) to implementing the strategy this school year, including the purchase of computers, Internet access, teacher training and school adaptation – a difficult task for any economy.
According to Education Minister Roberto Fulcar, the government is making an extraordinary effort to move teaching forwards as “losing a school year would be an enormous national tragedy”.
He added: “Sitting around waiting for COVID-19 to go away and then starting on education is a pessimistic position.”
However, there are serious doubts as to whether this effort is guaranteed to reach the three million children and young people spread throughout the country.
But Fulcar has said that the country has done everything possible to unite efforts, so that wherever children may be, in the mountains or the city, education will reach them in some form.
To achieve this, he has called for national unity, for education to be assumed as a collective national commitment, regardless of social class.
The first week of the school year is for induction, to explain the process to families and deliver workbooks or guides for teachers and parents or guardians, outlining the steps to follow, because everyone needs training.
Classes will be broadcast by radio, television and Internet, and will be supported by more than 100 stations and all of the country’s television channels to allow 100 per cent coverage of the nation.
There will be a channel for each grade and classes will be repeated two or three times a day. Secondary school students will receive three hours of lessons, and other pupils around one and a half hours “because children should not be overwhelmed”.
Students will be assessed through monitoring provided by teachers via WhatsApp, or they or their parents may deliver schoolwork in person.
Additionally, Fulcar stated that the Learning at Home strategy aims for there to be no excuse not to study, even without Internet or electricity. It is also seeking to provide materials for children with visual or hearing disabilities, or with autism.
Nevertheless, they must face the reality that only 24.5 per cent of children and adolescents have an electronic device and only 55.5 per cent have access to the Internet. (PL)