Most countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) confront problems with low education quality in their remote regions. Low education quality is brought on by insufficiently trained teachers, poor learning outcomes exemplified by below average examination scores (see for example regional Caribbean examination results in mathematics and language on www.cxc.org), and issues of school access at post-primary levels are common in remote areas. A rethink of the educational options for remote and geographically isolated regions in CARICOM countries to improve educational quality, learning outcomes and most importantly realize cost efficiencies may be timely. Although CARICOM countries are generally islands (with the exception of Belize, Suriname, Guyana), geographical isolation exists. For example in Suriname, Guyana, and Haiti pockets of the population resides in areas accessible only by river, airplane or feet. In the Bahamas, a small percentage of the population is dispersed across the Family Islands.
Let us examine here the challenge of providing education to remote areas and propose solutions based on technology, given Governments’ obligations to provide educational services to its constituents whether in Paramaribo or Kwamalasamatu; Nassau or Cat Island; Georgetown or Lethem; Belmopan or Punta Gorda irrespective of population size or location. Education provision requires school infrastructure, teachers, and textbooks notwithstanding the supply side difficulties.
Hence, why have countries in CARICOM not explored distance education options for teacher training, peer to peer teacher mentoring, and classroom instruction as a means to enhance education quality and reduce educational inequities between urban and remote rural areas?
Perhaps we have not realized that educational provision to these areas is indeed broken and needs a new fix. Distance education is copious at post-secondary levels and could be utilized effectively for basic education. The ability to provide distance education to remote regions could be explored through technologies as satellite, web-based solutions (Skype, MOOCs), mobile technology, and interactive audio and video. Devices powering these long distance education technologies could be using renewable energy resources.
Renewable energy resources are sustainable and have the ability to lift remote areas to new levels of prosperity. Complementing wind power, hydro power and solar energy with long distance learning technologies, can be the ultimate sustainable development option to challenge low education in remote areas.
The distance education options for remote areas should be conceptualized, tested and implemented. Outside the box thinking as it relates to education supply through distance education options for remote regions could lead to savings on teacher training, improved education quality and reduced inequities for remote areas.