With the impending implementation of the digital textbook system, some parents/guardians of secondary students are expected to see savings in excess of $100 – and even $200 in some cases – as it relates to the cost of textbooks.
The Ministry of Education intends to start the digital textbook initiative with Grades 7 and 8 in September 2017, said Minister of Education Myron Walwyn.
He told the House of Assembly yesterday (June 13) that the digital textbooks will be in the form of tablet computers.
Besides a compulsory annual fee, Walwyn said the new textbooks are virtually free.
“Currently, parents of students in Grade 7 spend approximately $241.41 for textbooks while parents of students in Grade 8 spend approximately $330.64.”
“With this new initiative, the textbook will be free, but there will be an annual fee of $125 for the use of the tablet and the other technological advances that go along with it,” the minister said.
He said the ministry will put ‘user agreements’ in place to hold parents responsible for replacing the tablets if they are damaged.
In the meantime, the education minister touted the digital textbooks as being capable of storing materials in 12 subject areas, including Mathematics, English Language, Social Studies, Physical Education, Science, and Spanish.
“The solution is designed to work completely offline where all the content within the tablet can be consumed without the use of the internet. In addition, the online feature of the solution provides teachers with the ability to create digital question banks, use such banks to test those students on-the-go, and generate instant results and analytics; thus allowing teachers to spend significant time in working with students on learning and intervention.”
“All information will be stored in the Cloud and students will not have access to the internet except when the teacher provides access for a particular reason,” the minister explained.
The initiative is a collaborative effort by the education ministry and an overseas-based company called FortunaPIX.
“The company is an end-to-end digital education solution company that authors digital books specifically for a curriculum, combined with rich multimedia digital content in the form of 3D videos, 3D simulations (Mono and Stereo formats), and HTML5 assets. This is done on a cutting edge technology platform that hosts these digital books (inclusive of multimedia content),” Walwyn further said.
He also noted that he expects Grade 9 students to be introduced to the digital textbooks by the 2018/2019 academic year.
Meanwhile, Walwyn said the digital textbook initiative is aimed at keeping the British Virgin Islands and its students relevant in this technologically advanced era.
“In taking these steps to integrate technology in the classroom setting, we are not only fulfilling our education sector strategy, but also the UNESCO 2030 Goals… We are also getting our students prepared for e-testing in light of the Caribbean Examinations Council’s (CXC) goal to fully launch e-testing in 2019.”