Second school year with “Corona”: Supporting the textbook or increasing its price 10 times!

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Faten Hajj wrote in “Al Akhbar”:
With the announcement of a tentative date for the start of the school year, starting from the end of September, the option of adopting “blended education” (combining urban education and “online” education) seemed to be the most likely, amid the tyranny of a basic desire among all components of the educational family (the Ministry of Education, the Educational Center, school administrations and teachers And parents) not to miss another school year. But desire is one thing, and working to secure the ingredients for its realization is another matter. In terms of e-learning, the challenges of technological readiness emerge from digital educational resources, programs, platforms, internet and electricity, while a safe and healthy return due to the Corona pandemic does not seem the only challenge to urban education, especially in public schools, in the absence of securing a national school book. How do the Educational Center for Research and Development and the Ministry of Education prepare to face challenges in both e-learning and face-to-face education? Are the two parties fulfilling their responsibilities? Will the solutions be based on the hopes of the students and their families?

Less than a month separates from the start of the new school year, while the book crisis is still stagnant, even if the Educational Center for Research and Development had its vision and suggestions in this field that it submitted to the Minister of Education, according to the head of the center commissioned (before her dismissal yesterday) Nada Oweijan. In the details of the crisis, the center held a tender for “subcontracting the production, printing and distribution of the national textbook series” twice in a row, without the two bids having a positive result, due to the low price of the lira against the dollar. As for the consensual approach to the contract permitted by the center’s bidding system, it was not taken into account either, after it became clear during the meeting with the bidders of the last tender, collectively, that their commitment to producing, printing and distributing national textbook series requires the purchase of raw materials (such as paper, cardboard, ink and gluing). It is necessary to print this book, and all materials imported from abroad, i.e. priced in US dollars, which will lead to an increase in the price of the book about 10 times its current price (i.e., the total book prices, which ranged between 10 thousand and 75 thousand according to the class and branch, would range between 100 thousand and 750 thousand Alpha except stationery!). Thus, the obligated persons linked their agreement to the contract by mutual consent, as Oweijan said, either to the government’s support for the requirements of the raw materials (the necessity to print the national textbook) within the so-called food basket, or to increase the price of the book about ten times, indicating that it sent the relevant minutes and reports to the minister For an appropriate report.

According to Oweijan, the educational center developed a proposal that included exceptional solutions in order to run the school year with the least losses, and each of these solutions identified its pros and cons. One of the advantages of concluding the contract by mutual consent is the provision of books at the beginning of the school year, but increasing the price of the book by about 10 times will place the parents of students in the public school huge burdens that they will not be able to pay. In addition, the sources of the committed companies made it clear to Al-Akhbar that a 10-fold increase is hypothetical, and the increase may be greater than that. On the other hand, subsidizing the book can keep the price of the book as it is or increase it at an acceptable rate, but there will be a delay in binding due to pending a decision by the Council of Ministers to support the book and then conduct a new tender. In addition, placing the books in pdf format on the DLI educational center platform would contribute to the rapid delivery of the book’s content to students while preserving intellectual property, but one of its disadvantages is the uneven distribution in terms of the availability of internet speed and the necessary electronic devices (computer, tablet My cell phone …) has many students, teachers and parents.

One of the basic solutions offered by the Educational Center is for the directors of secondary schools and public (and private) schools to retrieve books from students and redistribute them to them according to classes, which secures an amount of books without expense and puts the book in the hands of students at the beginning of the school year. However, one of the disadvantages of this procedure, according to the center, is that some students do not respond by returning books, which means that the book is partially secured.

Nevertheless, the center saw that there are supportive solutions, including the fact that former obligors have a limited number of book titles that can be bought and used, and there are also in the educational center’s warehouse a number of book titles “not for sale” in a limited quantity that can also be used where necessary. Some libraries also have small quantities of the national textbook.

The most appropriate option for the center is to adopt more than one solution together in a way that ensures the delivery of the book’s content to everyone through equal distribution between the digital book for those who have the Internet and the necessary equipment, and the paper for those who do not have the Internet and the necessary equipment in the fastest time and at the lowest possible cost, taking into account the advantages of each Of these solutions and its downsides.

Despite repeatedly contacting the Minister of Education, Tariq Al-Majzoub, “Al-Akhbar” was unable to obtain the ministry’s directions regarding securing the components of “blended education”, whether with regard to the textbook or digital educational resources, the electronic platform and the programs that will follow, and the possibility of securing the Internet free of charge for students in coordination with the Ministry of Communications and Ogero, and whether the ministry is ready for this cooperation. Note that the minister issued a distress call to the donors to secure electronic devices for all students.

UNESCO: Support to the Ministry

The Ministry of Education had entrusted UNESCO with the role of leading and coordinating the efforts of all parties (financiers, United Nations agencies, official and private bodies) to rehabilitate schools affected by the Beirut Port explosion and reopen them as soon as possible to ensure the continuation of education. The Director of the UNESCO Regional Office in the Arab Countries, Hamad Al-Hamami, denied to “Al-Akhbar” that the total cost of the reconstruction / rehabilitation process had been determined so far. With regard to the support mechanism, he stressed that the aid will reach the ministry directly, and UNESCO will monitor the reconstruction process. In the event that not all schools are renovated before the start of the new school year, and / or an outbreak of the Corona epidemic is further, according to Hamami, UNESCO will assist the ministry and strengthen its capabilities to develop distance / online education programs. According to Al-Hamami, UNESCO’s support is divided into two parts: A part aims to facilitate the access of all students to distance education, by providing free digital educational materials and educational tools for students (electronic devices). The second part aims to ensure the quality of distance education by providing technical and technical support to educational policy makers, curriculum developers and teachers to develop distance education programs (developing accelerated educational programs).

Ogero: Do ​​not communicate with “education”

In a related context, the Director General of “Ogero”, Imad Kreidieh, expressed the authority’s readiness to provide technical assistance, especially by providing the “google classroom” platform (which is a free platform, and to use it, the user must only have a Google account, and through it several classes can be created and students are invited to join and participate. Lessons, activities and examinations on them). Kreidieh assured that the Internet speed problem will only occur in remote places, stressing that the decision to secure the Internet for students free of charge depends on the Minister of Communications. He explained that «communication is currently cut off with the Ministry of Education, despite the fact that several meetings were held in this context. We do not know whether the ministry is still interested in the matter, especially after the resignation of the government, while the file does not tolerate any “recovery” and must remain on a hot fire, for the sake of the students’ future.





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