With students still in their first month of the school year, schools in Palau are easing their teachers and students into a “hybrid” setting, where classroom learning is blended with remote-learning platforms.

With schools in Guam currently closed and the COVID pandemic remaining a threat, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has continuously stressed that schools should be ready to close and adopt remote-learning procedures at a moment’s notice.

President Tommy E. Remengesau has frequently stated that Palau cannot remain closed to the rest of the world, and that a possible COVID case in Palau remains a very real risk. Flights have already begun to bear essential workers into the country.

“We cannot wait until there’s a COVID-free world until we open up,” President Remengesau said at the National Environment Symposium last week. “We will all starve first.”

However, he reiterated, Palau’s ability to stay closed for as long as it has gave the country six months of preparedness which other countries did not have. One of these ways, he has said, is classroom preparedness.

At the 2020 Education Convention this past July, the Ministry of Education (MOE) stated that it will be helping schools in Palau adopt a “blended-learning approach”, which is based on a platform of technology, mixed with “adaptive measures such as offline learning to mitigate challenges . . . of unstable online connections or lack of connectivity.”

One way which the MOE has been helping is providing laptops to all teachers, in public and private schools. Schools like Palau High School (PHS) have already received one computer for every teacher, while some private schools, such as Mindszenty High School (MHS), are waiting for their laptops to arrive.  

In an interview, Principal Smyth Rdang of Palau High School (PHS) described the current teaching strategy being used at the school as a “hybrid” classroom, with teachers using a combination of classroom instruction and online platforms.

Online platforms being used in classes include ZOOM and mobile education apps, in order to relate class information to students when they aren’t in the classroom.

“A student who is absent, for instance, will be sent his work over the app,” the Principal said. “This is a good way to address challenges we always face in teaching students, and also preps students and teachers to use these tools in case we have to close our school again.”

Principal Rdang identified challenges the school faced during the closure in March, and was hopeful that the training would help alleviate these problems.

“Access to technology was a big challenge,” he said, “and, for many students, access to internet. Teachers had to find ways to deliver work to students in Babeldaob, and to coordinate with students going to Angaur or Peleliu by boat.” Despite this, he said, teachers were able to create their own class agendas, and deliver their material and assessments with some creativity.

Hopefully, he said, this new method would take pressure off of the teachers, and, if the need arises, make the transition from in-class to remote teaching as seamless as possible. 

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