E-textbook, a “colossal failure’ if changes are not made

The government’s electronic textbook initiative is at great risk of becoming a “colossal failure” if changes are not made immediately to the content that is provided to teachers and students.

President of the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers (A&BUT) Ashworth Azille made the assertion yesterday while delivering the State of the Union Address at the union’s Annual General Conference which was held at the Multi-purpose Centre.

Noting that four out of every five students are no longer using the devices because of varying issues, the union leader said, Ministry of Education officials have failed to heed warnings to plan before implementing any policy.

He said officials rushed to roll out the programme and a year later, less than 90 percent of students on the island are actually taking the devices to school.

“A year later the content on the tablet is still woefully inadequate for the job we have been asked to do. A year later when we would have paid persons to write content, we still cannot determine if the e-books are truly ready to be commissioned.

“We are indeed living in an age where technology is at the heart of everything that we do and students are excited about the use of technology in the classroom space, but when you look at the results and recognise that the vast majority of our students are not engaging with the devices, then we need to ask ourselves what went wrong?” Azille said.

The programme is intended to cut the cost associated with purchasing the hard copies through the Board of Education (BoE). However, since it was launched in 2017, several questions have been asked about the quality of the content that was placed on the e-platform and how it would be implemented.

The BoE has also had a hard time getting students to return the devices so they can be updated before the start of each academic term.

The teachers’ union boss suggested that if the authorities are serious about saving the project, they should engage traditional publishers and writers to ensure that Antigua and Barbuda has the licences for the textbooks.

“Educators on a daily basis are ready to educate our students where they are, and we are truly ready to support an initiative that brings these books to spaces where they can be utilised fully,” Azille said.

He also stated that it is increasingly frustrating since, in the process of rolling out the electronic devices, the government failed to order enough hard copy textbooks which has led to a shortage of material to deliver the curriculum.

The president, who is also the principal of a secondary school, said no longer are teachers willing to be a part of a failed experiment and no longer are they willing to subject students to the said failed experiment.

He said the problems should be addressed immediately and before the beginning of the new school year in September.