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Engaging Parents in Education System Transformation

Thursday, March 16 2017

TSTT has partnered with a visionary education company seeking to transform the education system and a child’s learning experience.

Together they are seeking to engage parents in education transformation, providing the technological tools for their children’s educational success, empowering parents and motivating children to do better.

“Good Remedies A Parent Should Exercise Socially (GRAPES)” is a six-step programme created by Keron LesPierre, CEO of GRAPES For A Good Life Ltd, which launched the programme in mid- 2014. His goal is to reduce poverty and give children opportunities for a better life by ensuring their access to technology, a better education and a fulfilling career. “I want parents to know that their children can have a better quality education through affordable technology,” he stressed.

Praising the programme for its vision and ambition, TSTT’s Senior Manager Brand Public Relations and External Affairs Graeme Suite encouraged parents to take advantage of children’s seemingly natural interest in electronic devices and channel that into an engaging study programme.

“Having access to technology and being as comfortable with it as with a pencil, can help children improve academic and extracurricular performance and better prepare them for the 21st century workplace.”

The GRAPES six-steps programme brings together parents, teachers, educators, education consultants, psychologists, a savings institution and tertiary education counsellors. The programme provides guidance to parents and guardians on parental involvement at school and parenting best practices, whilst the technology provided can be used to facilitate online parent/teacher conferences for the busy parent, interactive chatrooms for parents to engage with each other and keep abreast of school activities, and networking fora where schools and teachers can form groups and build networks via online networking.

“GRAPES has seen success with individual parents signing up and witnessing their children’s academic performance improve by 60-70 per cent” said LesPierre. “The vision that GRAPES Ltd and sponsors like TSTT share is to see all primary school children benefit. The programme can make a radical difference in primary school education and we have been reaching out to school principals and parent-teacher associations (PTAs) to introduce them to GRAPES.”

Recognising the financial constraints that many parents face, in November 2016, LesPierre began a new initiative aimed at middle to lower income parents in the primary school system engaging them in Education System Transformation.

Under this programme - for $1 down and $25 a week for 17 months - GRAPES will provide a new, two-in-one, laptop/tablet combo from Microsoft; one year unlimited online practice in Math, Language Arts and Creative Writing; and daily monitoring of the student’s work with monthly online reports. It will also provide one student learning style assessment and one personality/ career assessment by qualified consultants.

GRAPES will conduct training sessions with parents, teachers and students to teach them how to use the laptop and online learning resources, at home and in the classroom, to make learning more exciting and fulfilling. GRAPES has also committed to donating 10-30 desktop computers to upgrade the computer laboratory in any school that registers a minimum of 100 students in the programme.

Excited about the programme’s potential to revolutionise primary school education in Trinidad and Tobago, LesPierre noted that, “As of February 2017, just over 250 children were actively doing the GRAPES programme under the news schools initiative, while four schools have signed up and 168 laptops have been distributed.”

One Principal who has embraced the GRAPES initiative at her school is Meluna Grant, who runs the private school, Christian Primary Academy in Arima. While the programme is very new to her school, Grant said the laptops were good quality and very reasonably priced and would help her students develop into technology-ready, 21st century citizens. “It’s the technological age…our students need to be able to broaden their awareness of what is happening in the world around them.”

Noting that writing for many children was a challenge and that today’s students would usually opt for a device as opposed to a traditional toy, Ms Grant said, “I am 100 per cent sure they will get more done using a laptop and parents will have peace of mind that the children are learning in a safe environment since the child would be able to work from home. “The programme will enhance the quality of education for our children,” she said, noting that the programme made learning and owning a laptop easy and flexible.

One parent from her school fully agrees. Rhonda Lynch-Watts has signed up her nine-year-old and six-year-old sons and has already seen them motivated to do more work online; while the programme’s kindergarten level has attracted her three-year-old daughter and the laptop/tablet design “is an easy platform for them.”

Noting that her sons perform very well academically but need to be challenged and get bored easily, she said the GRAPES programme was filling that need. It also taps into their competitive nature, she added, noting that her older son liked the sticker rewards, the competitive aspects of the levels, and the personalised certificates received via e-mail when you complete a level.

Lynch-Watts said she also particularly liked the programme’s parent support platform where you could access information relating to child development and how to engage children in learning, as well as have access to a GRAPES teacher when you had any questions.

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