By Tsai Jr-keng
The Ministry of Education held a news conference to ask the public and private sectors to cooperate to provide online teaching and demonstrations.
The goal of the news conference was to explain that if classes or schools are suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry would launch an online system for teaching and make up for missed classes.
Ways to apply for free 4G telephone numbers and discount plans were also announced so that students from disadvantaged families would have free, unrestricted mobile access to the Internet for 15 days.
On Wednesday, I talked to the manager of a school in China for the children of Taiwanese businesspeople based in Dongguan, Guangdong Province. Students there still have not gone back to school, but the school has launched an online teaching system whereby teachers record classes at the school and post them online.
The school has stopped classes, but not studies.
Taiwan should follow suit and the ministry should take advantage of favourable public sentiment to set up a concrete and feasible online study system that includes teacher-led instruction.
More schools are closing due to the pandemic. In the past, there was dengue fever, foot-and-mouth disease, and SARS, and now it is COVID-19.
It is to be expected that similar situations could occur in the future, so such a national online system is not only necessary, it is urgent.
Such a system must be tested. The ministry should order county and city education departments to instruct schools at all levels to test an online study system to prepare for the suspension of some classes or the whole school.
They should use the simulation process to detect problems to adjust and improve the system.
The drills could be held on Saturdays, because most school activities, such as sports events, have been cancelled on Saturdays and could be replaced with online teaching drills.
Parents would also be home on Saturdays, so they would be able to assist.
Finally, any electronic devices and online accounts that students need should be purchased and distributed as soon as possible.
It will be too late to start looking for tablet computers and applying for accounts after classes stop.
To help students from disadvantaged families, the 15-day free, unrestricted Internet access should be waived and they should be given access for as long as classes are suspended.
Tsai Jr-keng is a retired elementary school principal.
Translated by Perry Svensson
Source: Taipei Times