In the midst of COVID vaccinations and talks of opening Palau to limited travel, the Ministry of Education (MOE) says that it is continuing to support its Remote Learning Program for schools in Palau, partially by providing the long-awaited laptops and tablets to private schools.
The Division of Curriculum & Instruction said that teacher laptops and student tablets for Maris Stella School should be ready for distribution by the beginning of March, and that the MOE is working to secure the rest of Palau’s private schools with their computers in the following months.
A Ministry of Health (MOH) Directive signed by President Surangel Whipps Jr. last Friday renewed and modified a series of public health measures which were issued last November, including that schools should continue to ensure “online learning capacity and preparation for virtual classes”.
The MOE stressed that Palau schools should continue to be prepared to switch to remote learning platforms at a moment’s notice, even as COVID vaccines continue to roll out. While the government continues to look for ways to open Palau “safely and responsibly” to countries like Taiwan in the coming months, the MOH has continued to stress that Palau must be ready to declare a “state of emergency” once a positive COVID case is detected.
“COVID is here to stay; it’s not going anywhere,” President Whipps said during a press conference earlier this month, stressing that Palau must be prepared to “deal with COVID” when borders open.
At the 2020 Education Convention last July, former President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said that, in line with the MOE’s nation-wide Remote Learning Program which will be implemented in a “state of emergency”, all teachers in Palau schools, public and private, would receive a laptop for remote instruction, while all students would receive tablets.
Palau’s public schools received laptops and tablets as early as August of last year, and have since been using the technology to conduct “hybrid” classrooms, in which teachers are teaching classes in the physical classroom setting, but integrating online platforms like ZOOM into their classes. At the beginning of last school year, Principal Smyth Rdang of Palau High School (PHS) said that absent students could be sent their work over these online platforms, in order to build up their comfort with the virtual system.
However, Palau’s private schools still have yet to receive their laptops and tablets. The delay is due to financial constraints, but the MOE says that donations from Taiwan have helped to secure some of this equipment. Last November, the Government of Taiwan donated $400 thousand to the MOE for its Remote Learning Program. The funding was used to secure the laptops and tablets for Maris Stella School, which should be distributed “by the end of February or the beginning of March”. The MOE has said that it is working with the Ministry of Finance to secure equipment for the rest of Palau’s private schools, although when that equipment will be ready for distribution is still uncertain.
Meanwhile, private schools like Mindszenty High School have said that teachers are being trained in the use of online platforms like ZOOM and CISCO Webex for remote learning, and have been encouraged to integrate them in their classes whenever possible.
Last week, President Whipps said that he remains “always hopeful” that Palau will be ready to open its borders to tourism from Taiwan by the end of March, but that the two countries will continue to modify this timeline wherever necessary. Meanwhile, the MOH received its third batch of 3,200 Moderna vaccines last Thursday, and is continuing to conduct mass vaccinations through targeted priority groups. President Whipps said that the new batch should be enough to vaccinate most of the non-government frontline workers, such as hotel, tour, and restaurant operators.

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