The government of Trinidad and Tobago is teaming up with US-based Coursera to boost its local education offerings. This partnership will provide free online learning materials and, according to Fazal Karim, Minister of Tertiary Education, improve skills that will make the country more competitive in a wide variety of fields.
The Voice reports that the twin islands country wishes to become more connected to the global community and wants to have access to the world’s best teachers and professors.
Lila Ibrahim, Chief Business Officer at Coursera, applauds the government for recognizing the potential of online learning, and the enhancements it will provide for local education. Ibrahim added:
“We’re looking forward to working together to explore how we can bring awareness and value of online education credentials to both citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and employers.”
Students will have have centers on college campuses where they can receive help from mentors. Courses will include: business, technology, computer programming, entrepreneurship, and music. Karim says that 60% of his country’s young people are “on target” to be participating in higher education by next year.
Sean Coughlan, BBC correspondent, reports that Coursera, a major provider of massive open online courses, (MOOCs) will design what it is calling a “national knowledge network”.
Ibrahim says that this will be a model for similar networks in other countries, as well. Coursera will be working with the University of Trinidad and Tobago to provide the online courses, learning materials, and television programs.
Mr. Karim referenced a “motto” for the new learning program, “You can learn as you earn and you can earn more learning”. In past years, Trinindad and Tobago offered correspondence courses and distance learning from the Open University.
Now, says Karim, is the era of the “Internet campus”. Ibrahim called this improvement a “world-leading and unique scheme”. She added that locating the online learning school in Trinidad was a reflection of the country’s “willingness to experiment with the idea”.
“We wanted to work with groups who will move the ball forward most quickly,” she said.
Before the Coursera announcement, Janine Mendes-Franco, in an article for Global Voices Online, shared that Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Education not long ago hosted a Virtual Educa Caribbean conference, in the form of a two-day workshop, showing how Information and Communications Technology (ICT) can impact education.
The workshop’s intent was to provide information that would explain how incorporating innovative technologies into the learning experience could better prepare students for the future. Mendes-Franco reports that:
A couple of local bloggers thought the concept was interesting enough to pay attention to, especially against the backdrop of widespread criticism about the country’s education system – specifically, the fact that the entire primary school curriculum is geared towards the sitting of a grueling examination, the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA), in order to stream youngsters into secondary schools based on academic performance.
Reviews for the workshop were mixed, but most thought the general idea was a good one. The country is in the process of implementing a Laptop for Every Child Program will begin with 20 pilot schools being outfitted with Note 10.1 tablets.