The 2020 Strategic Plan for the Safe Reopening of Schools defines information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a “variety of mechanisms used to provide access to information”. The plan specifies that this term is not new in the educational arena, for ICTs have always been integrated into the education system.
The 2009-19 10-Year Education Plan defines distance learning as “a broad term encompassing technology that extends the learning community beyond the classroom walls. Courses are offered via satellite and the Internet, and email links students directly to peers, professors, programmers and change agents around the globe”.
The term education technology (EdTech) is not used in government policies or plans.
Constitution and laws: There is no ICT Act. The 2000 Telecommunications Act established the legal regulatory framework for telecommunications in The Bahamas, providing for universal services (basic telecommunications services) to be available at “an affordable price to all people throughout The Bahamas”. The 2009 Communications Act specifies that these universal services include internet services and extend to all public and church-operated schools (Article 119). The 2003 Electronic Communications and Transactions Act provides for the legal recognition of electronic writing, electronic contracts, electronic signatures and original information in electronic form in relation to commercial and other transactions, with no specific reference to educational institutions.
Policies, plans and strategies: There is no ICT in Education policy or strategy, although there are plans to develop a national education ICT framework. The integration of ICTs in the education system is supported through various education plans and policies.
The 2009-19 10-Year Education Plan recognizes that ICT can play an important role improving the efficient management of education and enhancing the teaching learning process, strongly promoting the use of ICTs in the classroom setting through various strategies.
The Vision 2030: A Shared Vision for Education in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas similary supports digital literacy and distance learning through ICT integration in the education system.
The Vision 2040: National Development Plan of The Bahamas published in 2017 includes a strategy to develop ICT in the country, with specific ICT objectives for schools that aim to facilitate the use of technology within schools and ensure that all schools and classrooms have the appropriate ICT infrastructure to facilitate teaching and streaming of educational content.
Digital competency frameworks: There is no digital literacy framework for teachers or students.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 Strategic Plan for the Safe Reopening of Schools outlined specific recommendations related to the changing dynamics of the education sector as a result of the COVID-19 era, where “ICTs in education have taken centre stage”. This includes building a responsive and resilient education sector through ICT, stating that “technology integration will play a key role in this new reality”. Specific objectives include building teacher capacity in the use of ICTs, developing student digital literacy to become digital citizens, broadening access to education through different ICT models, establishing public-private partnerships to address the digital divide, and the development of school technology plans, with a view to build a system that is able to respond to possible threats beyond COVID-19.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: The Vision 2040: National Development Plan of The Bahamas supports sustainable energy programs (solar or renewable energy) for “technology classrooms”, without a specific objective to increase access to electricity in schools. Similarly, the 2009-19 10-Year Education Plan aims to ensure that all schools are environmentally friendly, through the use of energy efficient devices and appliances. The objective is the creation of eco-friendly school campuses and electricity consumption reduced by 10%.
Computers and devices: The 2009-19 10-Year Education Plan aims to provide all students with access to computers and the appropriate training to ensure that they are computer literate as part of its long-term objectives. The plan additionally supports the integration of modern technology such as LCD projectors, laptop computers, audio and video broadcasting, and interactive white boards in the teaching/learning process. The Vision 2040: National Development Plan of The Bahamas similarly supports increased technology use (e.g. Smart boards, computers) in each classroom in all public schools and the establishment of ICT labs. Moreover, the plan aims to provide at least one computer per child to facilitate the use of ICT in all subjects. In the 2020 Strategic Plan for the Safe Reopening of Schools, the government provided parents with information (including specs) for the purchase of devices.
Internet connectivity: The 2009 Communications Act extends universal services in basic dial-up internet services to be provided free of charge to public and church-operated schools (Article 119; Schedule 5). The Vision 2040: National Development Plan of The Bahamas similarly supports the provision of internet connectivity in schools. In 2017, the Ministry of Education aimed to equip all public schools with fibre connectivity and Wi Fi as part of the “Digital Evolution” which called for the creation of smart schools to improve the quality of education. In 2020, over 60 schools had been upgraded, with more expected to be added at the end of year.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The provision of distance education is strongly supported in education plans. The 2009-19 10-Year Education Plan supports the expansion of distance education courses offerings through the use of e-learning, while the Vision 2040: National Development Plan of The Bahamas aimed to introduce distance and/or online learning programs at all education levels. The plan specifically supported the strengthening of programmes which deliver education through non-traditional methods (i.e. through the use of technology), with objectives to develop educational apps which target basic education and to better align education programming on television to the curriculum. The Vision 2030: A Shared Vision for Education in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas includes a dedicated section on ‘alternative forms of educational delivery’ through ICT that cater to marginalized groups, such as individuals located in rural/remote locations, individuals suffering from health conditions, incarcerated persons, and students who, for a variety of reasons such as profound special learning needs and behavioural challenges, have demonstrated an inability to cope with mainstream schooling.
In 2019, the Department of Education used ICTs to provide education to students on the Family Islands who were without teachers in specific subject areas, which served as the springboard for the delivery of education to students in Abaco and Grand Bahama, who were educationally disenfranchised as a result of the devastating impact of Hurricane Dorian. The Ministry of Education officially launched the Vitual Learning Portal in 2019, which was used for the delivery of distance learning during COVID-19 (online platform). The 2020 Strategic Plan for the Safe Reopening of Schools included three models of education delivery: face-to-face, hybrid learning and remote learning.
The Vision 2030: A Shared Vision for Education in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas envisions that each student completing secondary school in The Bahamas should possess digital literacy, appreciate the role of technology and innovation in national development, display skills and competencies that reflect career and college readiness, communicate effectively, and collaborate willingly. To this end, the 2009-19 10-Year Education Plan aims to provide all students with the appropriate training to ensure that they are computer literate. According to the 10-year plan, the ideal graduate will: possess relevant knowledge in core subjects such as maths, language, science, technology and the arts.
The Vision 2040: National Development Plan of The Bahamas has several objectives that support the development of STEM education, including the strengthening of STEM at all education levels and STEM scholarships and internship programs to encourage girls and women to enroll in STEM subject areas and pursue STEM-related careers.
The 2019 Handbook for Teachers in Bahamian Public Schools aims to help teachers use technology to improve their classroom instruction and assessment procedures. The 2009-19 10-Year Education Plan further supports training all teachers to use and integrate ICT in their teaching, with a performance indicator to train 50% of all education professionals in information technology by 2012. The Vision 2040: National Development Plan of The Bahamas also aims to train teachers for STEM education, in addition to training ICT technicians or teachers certified in basic ICT maintenance. Following COVID-19, the 2020 Strategic Plan for the Safe Reopening of Schools supported equipping teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to build a responsive and resilient system (including through the enhanced use of ICT).
2.4.1. Data privacy
he 2007 Data Protection (Privacy of Personal Information) Act provides for the protection of the privacy of individuals in relation to personal data and the regulation of the collection, processing, keeping, use and disclosure of certain information relating to individuals. There is no explicit reference to schools.
The 2003 Computer Misuse Act makes provisions securing computer material against unauthorised access or modification and for connected purposes, with no explicit reference to schools.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
The 2007 Child Protection Act protects children from discrimination, violence, abuse and neglect, but there is no mention of the online or cyber environment.
The Ministry of Education and Technical and Vocational Training coordinates efforts to integrate ICT in the education system through the Department of Technology. The Ministry additionally has established a Home School Unit responsible for overseeing homeschooling in The Bahamas.
The Department of Transformation and Digitization is responsible for enabling the use of technology to transform the delivery of services by the Public Service to meet the needs of a modern Bahamas.
Further, a Technology Task Force has been commissioned and charged with the responsibility of selecting and giving oversight to the implementation of both a comprehensive EMIS (Education Management Information System) and Learning Management System (LMS) system in the education system.
There is no blanket ban on the use of mobile devices in classrooms.