By Elesha George
The Council of Education Ministers in the Eastern Caribbean is preparing to host a special meeting in March to assess the effectiveness of the current education system and to establish new ways of teaching and learning within the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
The idea is to create hybrid learning platforms that will include a mix of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), social and physical interaction, Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET), and academics, driven by intersectoral partnerships.
Chair of a recently concluded Council of Education Ministers meeting, St Vincent’s Education Minister Curtis King, said one of the main areas that will be reviewed is standardised testing and its place in determining a student’s competence.
“A decision was taken to have an immediate follow-up to discuss this whole issue of assessment, and so we are going to have a special meeting where we are going to look at the issue in greater detail with the intention of coming up with practical recommendations to dealing with the issue of assessment to make it more relevant to the stage at which we are with our education and that meeting will be held in early March,” he said.
This and other recommendations for change were highlighted during a youth forum that formed part of the two-day meeting last week.
Ministers endorsed the draft OECS Declaration on Education 2022 which considers the treatment of digital literacy, training for parents to assist with online learning, assistance for less privileged students with little to no access to online learning and for more focus to be placed on slow learners.
Dr Didadcus Jules, Director General of the OECS, shared that in the near future the Council will shape a new strategic plan for education which takes into account feedback from individual education ministers, students and teachers, as well as parents, who all play a vital role in the success of the region’s education system.
“The emphasis on transformation of education was not just simply on how do we transform the education system but also the role of education in transforming our societies and helping us to deal with the volatile, uncertain, confused and ambiguous times in which we now live,” he explained.
According to Jules, “It is also an opportunity to do things we knew that we had to do but we took time to do, with a sense of urgency. And so, we’ve had no choice but to move in the direction, for example, to the digitisation of education.”
Jules noted that the Covid-19 pandemic “made fractures in education even more acute”, which raised the very real concern of children being left behind as a result of the disruption in learning.
“The normalcy that we experienced before from an educational perspective was never really a normal because of the patterns of performance and so on,” he remarked, stating that what needs to happen now is for those in charge to begin to correct the deficiencies of the education system.
“The ‘north star’ for that is that no child should be left behind. Whether we’re talking the digital divide, we’re talking the impact of poverty on education, whether we’re talking access to learning material, quality of instruction, the forms of assessment – no child must be left behind and so, all of our efforts are being converged on that north star,” explained Jules.
Meanwhile, Minister King said while the region should have been better prepared to educate during the pandemic – given its experiences with natural disasters – there was evidence of work being done to improve the integration of technology in education pre-Covid.
Ministers have so far agreed to review regional teachers’ education programmes, support a new regional education-sector strategy, evaluate an intersectoral approach to childhood intervention to address the needs of vulnerable at-risk learners, strengthen education systems to improve access to data, and establish a technical working group to manage information solutions and ultimately endorse the OECS’ Declaration on Education.