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By Elesha George

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Education ministers within the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are expected to put forward a number of recommendations that will improve ditigal learning among member countries.

On Thursday, the group began a two day event to discuss and make recommendations to facilitate improvements in educational planning and teaching on technological platforms that rely on interconnectedness.

During the opening ceremony of the 6th Council of Ministers: Education (COME) hosted by the government of Saint Lucia, Director General of the OECS, Dr Didacus Jules encouraged ministers to think of innovative strategies that will allow every learner to succeed in this digital era.

Closure of schools due to Covid-19 has forced students and educators to depend heavily on online learning, but it has also identified the visible inequality regarding who exactly can access the information.

Students and parents, particularly those in poorer communities are detered by lack of devices and internet access to receive the information while away from school plants.

For many students, school is a safe place away from abuse at home and for others, it is the only place they can get a decent meal through the national school meals progammes.

“Covid-19 had taught us that pivoting to online learning has not led to an automatic widening of access and participation. In order to fast track our digital education agenda, we must change the framework conditions in which our education institutions operate,” the director said.

An open innovation framework, he shared, has proven to be the most successful concept for e-learning and will reduce obstacles in digital education by giving all learners access to education resources at a lower cost or at nearly no cost.

The Director said educators must consider a more intersectoral approach, commitment to collaborative planning within and across sectors, targeted investment of resources, and they must harness robotics capability in the region, if they wish to see the economic union improve in education.

“There is so much more we can achieve with refined communication mechanisms and better utilising the sharing and networking functions that we have created,” he said.

 This week’s session was held under the theme,Sustainable Education: Collaborative Policies and Practices for the Future,” and brought ministers together in a collaborative effort to address complex educational issues facing the region and its impact on the Small Island Developing States of the Eastern Caribbean.

Issues discussed included national and regional responses to Covid-19, and its impact on the education system specifically the shift to a distributed learning system; the opportunities presented; and the psychosocial impact on students; financing mechanisms for education and the implementation of the regional education strategy and; innovation in education, advancing skills development and higher education.

Last year, at the beginning of the pandemic, regional education ministers agreed to put in motion an OECS Education Sector Strategy (OESS) which sets out the priorities for the period 2012 – 2026, and which determines the focus of regional education approaches and initiatives and contributes to national education.

The strategy was endorsed by The Council of Ministers: Education (COME) in 2011.