The Bahamas Inks Deal with Microsoft to Improve Educational Technology

The government of The Bahamas has signed a partnership agreement with Microsoft to better prepare students for the work force and create a Bahamas that is equipped to handle the Information Communication Technologies (ICT) of the 21st century.

The Microsoft Partners in Learning Education Transformation Agreement was announced by Jerome Fitzgerald, the minister of education, science and technology after being signed at the end of May. The agreement is a major milestone for The Bahamas, allowing the country to keep up technologically with the changing educational times, writes Kathryn Campbell of The Bahamas Weekly.

"We have implemented a very aggressive and diverse professional development framework to ensure that teachers are able to teach effectively in an increasingly ICT-enriched environment. To date, nearly 2,000 teachers have been trained in a multiplicity of ICT skills," he said.

The agreement has a multitude of benefits for participants, including the ability for 1,500 teachers and 22,000 students to download Microsoft Suite programs to five devices, digital inclusion of all students, and an education email address that can be used for their entire lives.

The Government takes the mandate to create an educational system that is "technologically sound" and "competitive" very seriously, said the Minister. "Our commitment is demonstrated by the nearly $5 million in ICT initiative undertaken by my Ministry since 2012. It is by far the largest and most successful technology initiative undertaken to date by the Government of The Bahamas under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST) IDB INSPIRE Project Management Unit," he stated.

INSPIRE has worked to upgrade schools with computers, interactive white boards, document cameras, multimedia projectors, and distance learning equipment. The national libraries now have computers, and additional support has been given to area resource centers. The partnership with Microsoft will refine these upgrades as well as integrating assisting technology to students with special needs, all of which will help to create a technologically sound Bahamas.

"(The agreement will ensure that) teachers are equipped to effectively integrate technology into teaching and learning, thus fostering innovation and ingenuity in our students," said Fitzgerald.

The agreement has already proved invaluable to the area. At the 10th Annual Microsoft in Education Global Forum this year, Sharell Armaly-Edwards, an art and design teacher, submitted the winning entry, showcasing her students' ability to use the Internet and interactive white boards for research. The forum celebrates the world's leading educators who most effectively use ICT in the classroom in an effort to transform education in the 21st century.

The Bahamas, with a population of 382,000, has a literacy rate of 95% and a school attendance rate of 92%. There are 210 elementary and secondary schools in the commonwealth, 158 of them operated by the government.

Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Haiti have signed similar agreements with Microsoft.

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