Teachers welcome suspension of schools’ cell phone policy

Barbados Today:-The Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) has welcomed the suspension of Government’s controversial plan to lift a ban on the use of mobile devices, including smartphones, in schools.

BSTU President Mary Redman this evening repeated a long-held position that there was little to gain and a lot to lose by allowing students to freely use their mobile phones.

“We are not disputing the fact that children bring cellular phones to school, but as it stands where the intended policies were not implemented it is not a legitimate action. We have control to a certain extent with the control of cellular phones during the school hours in our classroom settings. However, we envisage a whole set of exacerbated problems if there is legitimacy to that action of being able to bring cellular phones in school,” Redman told Barbados TODAY.

Minister of Education Ronald Jones announced yesterday during the launch of the e-version of the 62nd annual conference document of the ruling Democratic Labour Party that the new policy on the use of mobile devices “will not be rolling out” tomorrow as was previously planned.

However, Jones was at pains to explain that Government had not abandoned the plans altogether, only that it was putting the finishing touches to the policy, which would later go to a sub-committee of Cabinet “to ensure that there isn’t’ anything there that conflicts [with] one segment with each other”.

The minister acknowledged that there was a high degree of debate surrounding the proposed policy, while at the same time promoting the “effective use” of mobile phones as a tool in the classroom.

“I’m also aware that in the wider society there is a substantial misuse of the technologies. Social media . . . is so badly misused [by] persons in our society that it is awful. All kinds of rubbish is now placed on the various social media programmes and that kind of stuff. FacebookInstagramSnapchat . . . .I mean it’s mind-boggling that people who should otherwise focus on a developmental agenda on moving themselves out of the current state would spend that level of time on such mischief and silly behaviour . . . and promoting violence,” Jones said.

However the minister said he was determined to utilize technology, including smartphones, to help improve learning, arguing that schools could benefit from these technologies, especially considering that a lot more mischief takes place in the wider society than in schools.

The BSTU has argued that students use their cell phones for mischief, and this evening, Redman again dismissed as a non-argument, Jones’ contention that allowing the devices in school is a means of bringing technology into the classroom.

“There is no automatic link between cellular phone use and the use of technology in the classroom. Children have been using technology in the classroom long before the advent of cellular phones,” she said.

She also stressed that cellular phones were being used to record all sorts of illicit and undesirable acts in school, including sexual acts and fights.

“We know that they help to promote violence because where two students might fight at the beginning of lunch and previously by the end of lunch they might have made up and be friends again, now phones are used to call in re-enforcement. By the end of school any altercation that should have ended and remained settled is now taken to another level with assistance often from persons outside of the school premises,” Redman explained, adding that cellular use made it more difficult for teachers to maintain control in the classroom and on school premises.

“Based on all of our actual practical experiences within the school environment, the vast majority of teachers I know and the vast majority of the members of the BSTU are not in support of the legitimization of cell phone use during school time.”

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