One of the main political campaign promises of Ricardo Martinelli, current President of Panama, was to change the educational system. In order to remain a competitive economy in the region, Panama had to modernize the learning process of the country. With Lucy Molinari at the helm of the Ministry of Education, important modifications are being introduced to reform the system.
For many years there have been structured flawed governmental and educational policies that have marginalized a considerable portion of our student’s population. The still-pervasive belief that all students can learn in a similar fashion is simply ludicrous and essentially a disservice to thousands of students and their parents.
It’s about time to start the arduous task of retooling Panama’s public education system. It is mandatory to dispel the myth that every student can and should be taught using the same flawed and old-dated public education policies.
The latest development in this supercritical area, is the wide distribution of 93,500 laptops in 156 educational entities to high school students all over the country. Ms. Molinari said the purpose of providing high school students with laptops which could be connected to the Web, was to pursue “the massification of technologies”. The laptops are free of charge, but only targeted to public educational centers. The total cost of the program is $23.3 million.
The specific objective of the public project is to minimize technological illiteracy in the country. Providing laptops to students connected to the Cloud would be a stimulus for students to continue the educational process, since about fifty percent of students in Panama are dropping out of high school. The social cost is too heavy to bear; something had to be done as soon as possible. The name of the government initiative is called “Provision of Educational Laptops to Students—Spreading Technology.”
As you know, the devil is in the details. Below are the basic specifications of the electronic learning tools:
- Equipment Format: Clamshell
- Processor: Dual Core Atom, N550, 1.5 GHz
- Main Memory: 2 GB DDR 800/1067
- Internal Hard Disk Drive: 250 GB (Minimum)
- Color: White
- Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7
- Screen: 10″ (diagonal)
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
- Software: Adobe Reader, Fax and Scanner for Windows, Microsoft Internet Explorer 9, MS Office 2010 (Starter), MS Security Essentials, Windows DVD Maker, Microsoft Mathematics.
- Ports: three USB ports, one 15-pin connection jack for a projector or monitor, one headphone jack, one microphone jack, and one Internet Connection
Raúl, the Twisters‘ stepbrother, who is in 10th grade at Instituto José Dolores Moscote High School, brought me the laptop he just received, since I was interested in taking a look at it. This is how the puppy looks like. Here we go.
Snapshot of the laptops that are being distributed by the Ministry of Education of Panama. The name of the device is Balboa engrained in blue. Balboa is the Spanish Conquistador who discovered the Pacific Ocean for the Europeans in 1513. It was then called The South Sea. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot of the keyboard of the Balboa laptop, which is being provided by the Ministry of Education of Panama to public high school students free of charge. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
All laptops are properly identified with the name of the Ministry of Education (MEDUCA) in black letters. “Para toda la vida” means, “For the whole life” in English. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
In this picture, you can clearly see the name of the Balboa clamshell laptop in blue. These devices were specifically manufactured in Portugal for the Government of Panama. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
In this image you can see the USB ports and the connection for the Internet cable. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot of the USB ports, and the jacks for a headphone and a microphone, and a 15-pin jack for an external monitor or printer. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
I think this educational program is a giant leap forward towards modernizing the country’s work force. If we pretend to become a First World country, the gateway to do so is a modern educational system. It’s time to elevate and differentiate Panama’s academic standards. This is only the beginning of a long process. There’s a lot of wood to chop. Good Day.
Read Full Post »