Updated | Students to get free tablet by 2015, MUT denies agreement

Grade 4 students to receive a free tablet computer by beginning of 2015-16 scholastic year, education minister says.

Education minister Evarist Bartolo today announced that by the beginning of the 2015-16 scholastic year, all schoolchildren will receive a free computer tablet.

A pilot project will kick-off in March 2014, Bartolo explained, however he said that the number of schools and students involved in the project depended on the suppliers. The pilot project is expected to end in March 2015.

"Several suppliers have already shown interest in participating. The more suppliers involved, the more schools will benefit from the pilot project," Bartolo said.

He added that the pilot project would be a "learning curve" for suppliers.

The project was one of the Labour Party's electoral pledges and from 2015 onwards all schoolchildren attending private, church and government schools will gradually benefit from the initiative. The programme will be first launched for Grade 4 students and would gradually be extended up to Grade 6.

Bartolo stressed that "during this experience, teachers will be able to analyse both hardware and software provided to the students," adding that the pilot project will not be supplier driven.

“Teachers will be the first to see whether the product offered is adequate and useful. Their part is crucial in this process. In previous years, numerous changes were introduced abruptly without consultation with these stakeholders. We don’t want to repeat such mistake.”

A public call for the provision of tablets will close in four weeks time, however Bartolo said that suppliers had ample time to develop applications since this was an electoral promise in last year's electoral campaign.

Suppliers will be required to provide applications in both Maltese and English while all teachers will receive pedagogical training on all kinds of technologies to ensure that all teachers are prepared for the introduction of tablets in 2015.

"Presently, classrooms are teacher centred. Hopefully this will change gradually with this reform, a change of results can be obtained with this change in teaching methodology," Bartolo said.

During the press conference, the minister also announced that the role of director within the e-learning directorate was created to strengthen this sector, with Emanuel Zammit occupying the post.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) noted that even though it is true that there have been preliminary meetings with the government, currently there are no agreements in place on how this project is going to be implemented.

The Union also said that it had no objections to the concept of having tablets in schools. "However they should complement school learning - and act as a tool to both teachers and students - and not reduce the quality time of teaching," MUT said.

On the consultation held between the government and the MUT, the union pointed out that more meetings are expected to be held in order to reach an agreement on the way this project will be implemented.

"The MUT maintains that this pilot project should not start in the middle of a scholastic year but at the beginning of a new one.," the statement said.

Moreover, the MUT recommended that such a project "should have a long term vision and not be a simple case of fulfiling an electoral pledge. The Union also expects this pilot project to have a proper evaluation so that difficulties are resolved before it is rolled out nationally."

The union also queried whether the project will include Church and independent schools.

@elwenzu Ghalik toy ghax ma tafx tuzah! LOL
Good job tablets in schools will not be based on elwenzu's experience then! Although children learn much through play.
What is wrong with the teachers helping the students learn abot and use their tablets? I am sure that this is a wrong impression, but the MUT is giving the impression that the teachers do not know how to use them let alone teach the children. Is this the impression that you want to give of teachers MUT?
My experience of tablet use tells me that it is nothing more than a toy!