Suriname's response to school closure.


Characteristics of the educational system

530 schools

Students by level: 18,000 pre-primary, 70,000 primary, 55,000 secondary, 9,500 tertiary (only public); @ 10,000 teachers from pre-primary through secondary.

Responsible for the provision of educational service

Ministry of Education - MOESC

Immediate response

School closings

Due to community spreading of COVID-19 virus, the government announced a full lockdown from June 8th – June 21st.  And therefore, at national level all schools at all levels were suspended until further notice. Schools were closed starting on March 16th. Pre-schools also closed.

School reopening was announced for October 1st, 2020.

Social services provided during school closings

Schools closed including all the services. With the announced full lockdown, the services provided by the Ministry were also at minimal level.  

The government has developed a COVID-19 emergency fund with the goal to support the vulnerable groups within the community, including students, parents etc. Of course, they have to take into account the criteria which is applicable to them.

The government has set up a COVID-19 fund to which parents can apply for support on the basis of their socio-economic status. If social services are needed, they can be provided. There is a hotline for socio-emotional support.


Strategies for educational continuity

The MoESC made a lot of progress in strategies to provide education for students and teachers.

For basic education, BE-STREAM integrated curriculum for Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math is being broadcasted on television. Schools at all levels are instructed by the Ministry that teachers must be in contact with parents on classroom level. This is done through available communication possibilities such as WhatsApp, Email, Telephone, personal contact.

Some schools are also using Zoom, Moodle, Google Class for live classes. 

In the meantime, support is being received from International Organizations on how digital content through platforms or Television can be provided. Some which can mention in relation to this are:

  1. The IDB which is supporting the broadcast of Sesame Street programs. 
  2. UNICEF to use the Learning Passport Platform for providing on and off-line digital content. There is a working group looking at this possibility and will report to the Minister.

For the secondary level a standard platform for teachers where they can upload videos for several subjects is being set. These videos go through a selection process by a content team  prior to being placed on the platform.

Government's priorities for education continuity are teacher training, connectivity, content development, structural improvements to open the schools safely and technological devices.

Study plans for educational continuity

A selection is made by experts on the basis of the curriculum framework as to which subjects or themes are provided as lessons or study plans. This is applicable for all grades.

The interior needs another approach, different from the city. For example, tablets, lesson materials in the local language will be used.

The private denomination schools are doing more hybrid, because most of them have internet connectivity.

Support Tools

Availability of television or radio signals for educational purposes

There was no broadcasting system in place prior to school closure. There used to be a School TV and Radio department, but it was closed a few years ago.

Digital content being developed by denomination schools. TV programs focused on BeSTREAMING (STEM) program for grades 1-6.

Digital technologies for learning continuity

Mobile (smart) phones are used widely. Digital tv is available. This is provided by an e-government project that was established to connect the ministries and to reach the communities in the interior.

Currently several schools work with Moodle, Zoom etc. The Ministry is discussing working with a standard Platform for distance education.

Digital technologies for monitoring learning

Since the school closure 2 online questionnaires have been sent out to teachers and school leaders at primary and secondary level. Conclusion is that ICT readiness of teachers is very low, and they are not IT prepared. Furthermore, it has been learnt that a lot of teachers do not have internet access.  This is also the case for students. Families have difficulties providing support.

Another challenge being experienced is how to monitor the progress and the development of children at home. So what impact does “homeschooling” have on children? How are their cognitive and social skills developing?

Development or adaptation of content for broadcast by analog media

At the moment, there is no analog media. The only instruction on this was to produce “learning packages” to print for students who do not have access to internet connection and therefore no access to digital content.

The country is open for any alliance and support to establish, for the sake of all children, especially for the minority groups in the interior.


National digital education strategy

There is a framework for a crisis management plan which is still being worked out. This is not written in stone because with the spreading of the virus, the situation is constantly changing. And in accordance with the COVID-19 Management Team, the Education Management Plan is being adjusted.

Connectivity in schools for use of administrative and pedagogical management systems

The higher education institutes have online options for instruction and administrative systems.

Internet connectivity benefits for students and teachers

The Ministry is looking at the possibilities with telecom providers and has already received positive cooperation for this topic.


Challenges of educational continuity during school closings

The main obstacle is that not all children and all teachers have access to the internet, tv, devices and electricity. And also due to the full lockdown it is very challenging to communicate with the strategic stakeholders looking for solutions. With no transportation allowed it is difficult to reach the interior.  

Another obstacle is that in a survey that was sent out, it was identified that many of the teachers lack internet connectivity and a device (either a laptop or computer), and are not well-familiar with distance education or e-learning aspects. 

Another challenge is the group examination candidates who have to move on to another level: there is a need to define which modality applies best for this group, taking into account that many of them don’t have access to any kind of form of education.

Additionally, there are poor sanitary facilities at schools.

A number of decisions regarding curriculum and syllabi need to be made to take into account 5 months of missed classes during last academic year.

Added challenges are the facts that  internet fees have been increased significantly (by 60%) and that there is a lack of  print materials, digital and analog content.


Plans to reopen schools

Prior to the full lockdown the intention was to re-open schools on the 1st of June for exam candidates of the primary and secondary level. Due to the COVID-19 spread within the community this planning was withdrawn. The re-opening of the schools therefore depended on the development of the situation and the instruction of the national COVID-19 Management Team, which decided to reopen them in October 2020.

Since then, schools have reopened in Paramaribo and coastal cities. This comprises eight of the ten districts. Only the schools in the interior have not reopened yet.

Plans and protocols for school reopening as well as diagnostic programmes and remedial work were considered. Upgrade of school facilities to ensure safe sanitary conditions is ongoing.

Diagnosis programs are starting with 6th grade (8th in Suriname) math since there is an exam to transition to lower secondary.

The Minister has set up task forces to develop a national education strategy for education during and after the pandemic, including sanitation measures, infrastructure guidelines, teaching content, standards for in-person and hybrid education, and teacher training and assessment needs. The Minister also has been instrumental in negotiating boat transportation for students in the interior.


Learning models for the reopening of schools

Remote learning will be part of the “new normal” and how it can be made sustainable, taking all challenges into account, is curretly being discussed, especially for the minority groups in the rural areas.

The plan consists of special programs for guidance and diagnosis, especially for the students but also for the teachers. For the latter, it is in the form of capacity building and training.

It has been decided that students will automatically promote despite loss of 5 months of class time.

Teachers are being asked to do their own assessment of where students are, based on the curriculum, to determine how far behind students are. This will assist in them in their planning and teaching and learning strategies.

For the exam to transition from primary to secondary, students who do not pass the math exam will receive additional tutoring and support to retake the exam.

Additional Information

Suriname, COVID-19, Education continuity, Emergency remote teaching
Last Update: 11/11/2020
Diagnosis of digital management transformation: