Schools have the potential to foster the holistic development of a child and should not merely concentrate on their academic pursuits.
This was the view of the new UNICEF Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Khin-Sandi Lwin as she addressed a recent graduation ceremony of 15 teachers of a one-year certificate course in Health and Family Life Education, ceremony at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College.
She said that while the focus was on academics, there was a need for greater emphases in schools for a balance of cognitive development with social and emotional learning and for fostering life skills and positive attitudes and behaviours critical to successful learning.
Lwin added: “Children and adolescents not only need to know the food groups but they also need the skills to make good food choices at meal times. They not only need to know that exercise is good for them but they also need the opportunities to include physical exercise and sports in their daily lives.
“They need to understand how to live in harmony with their environment and have the skills to take actions to minimise health hazards and risks. Children and adolescents need to understand their sexuality so that they can protect themselves from exploitation and abuse and make informed decisions about their sexuality — including how they dress, where they go, how they interact with the opposite sex.”
Referring to the graduates as “heroes”, Lwin said: “The efforts to strengthen HFLE delivery in Barbadian schools are commendable. The Ministry of Education’s inclusion of HFLE as a core subject as part of its 2000 curriculum reform process was a positive one.
“Efforts will now need to be taken a notch up to better encourage and support principals to accord greater value to this subject and treat it as one of equal importance to other examinable subjects.”
The UNICEF representative contended, however, that for HFLE to remain a core subject, all primary and secondary school teachers must be trained to deliver it and there should be a cohort of specialist teachers in the discipline.
Stressing that the programme should be integral to all pre-service teacher education programmes with opportunities for more in-depth training, Lwin praised the University of the West Indies Open Campus’ on-line HFLE Diploma Course, due to start in August, deeming it “a significant development in HFLE training options for Caribbean teachers that we are proud of”.
Teachers heard too that HFLE was integral to the Schools Positive Behaviour Management Programme and were urged to sign on to SPBMP in their own schools.
“Child centric classrooms, employment of positive behavioural management strategies and greater parental involvement in children’s education are all critical components of a child-centred education and contribute to more effective schools. HFLE is a critical part of this,” Lwin maintained.
Meanwhile, Acting Senior Tutor at the ETTC, Maxine Moore, expressed satisfaction with the college’s efforts to better educate teachers in HLFE and how to teach aspects of the programme.
She explained that other courses at that institution also contained components of health and family life education as well as information on HIV for primary and secondary school teachers and that every year the College hosted a health fair relating to these and other issues.
The HFLE course addressed, among others, Sexuality & Sexual Health, Self and Interpersonal Relationships, Eating & Fitness as well as Managing the Environment.