Exactly two months after a new Education Reform Unit was established, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw declared Friday that work to reform the entire education system has begun.
But the minister faces the more immediate impact of the education deficits of children in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption of three school terms.
She announced that in light of the recent low scores in the Class Four English language and Mathematics examinations – a precursor to the Barbados Secondary Education Entrance Examination (BSEEE) – Erdiston Teachers’ Training College would be intervening.
“Erdiston has already set plans in motion to provide further support to teachers in literacy and numeracy starting in September this year,” said Bradshaw. “The college will also officially operationalise its literacy diagnostic early intervention centre.”
Education officials are expected to take part in several workshop sessions this summer, focusing on educational reform and its implications for education leadership, change management, disaster and stress management among others, as part of the reform efforts.
The minister did not give any indication as to when the promised abolition of the common entrance exam was likely to take place. The end of a one-time final examination for entry into secondary schools has long been seen as a key element of education reform.
But Bradshaw disclosed that the planned reforms were to go beyond the removal of the exam.
“It will also be about reforming the national curriculum to make it relevant to the emerging technological and global trends and transformational needs of this country. We will also be looking at the structure of our secondary schools, and the process of transforming schools into specialist institutions has already begun,” she said, without giving details.
Bradshaw was addressing the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College orientation ceremony for the 2020/2021 academic year via an eleven-and-a-half-minute prerecorded video message.
The education minister said: “More importantly, we will reform the way we teach and assess our children. We will direct our learners along a path that encourages and allows them to take responsibility for their learning and actions, to be able to display their strengths and thus, make the best use of their talents.”
Pointing to the need for opportunities for residents if Barbados was to become a “truly developed nation” and achieve its sustainable development goals by 2030, Bradshaw said developing the human resource, building capacity and putting people at the centre of the island’s development plan would be critical.
Singling out the UN Sustainable Development Goal number four, quality education for all, she said the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College was leading the way in sustainable development, adding that it would play a critical role in the education reform efforts.
Bradshaw said: “The college will continue to collaborate with the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training and all the other tertiary institutions… to develop programmes and to provide training for education providers.”
She revealed that the Erdiston teachers college had signed a memorandum of understanding with George Brown College in Canada to improve its programming and provide opportunities for students and staff.
It is also in the process of forging collaborative links with Tampere University in Finland, she said.
She said: “The college will also shortly participate in the implementation of the smart energy programme of the Government of Barbados, which is necessary to achieve the goal of a fossil-free Barbados by the year 2030. These collaborations are designed to build capacity at the college and to help you to improve your instruction and leadership.”
Bradshaw said she anticipated that The University of the West Indies campus at Cave Hill would work with Erdiston to revise some of its programmes that have been franchised out to the college in order to make them “more relevant to the needs of this country”.
“Training has already begun in coding and robotics and the Government has thus far spent $3 million to facilitate this programme, which will be offered at all levels of the educational system,” she told the gathering. “Over 200 teachers, tutors and instructors have already started the training organised by Erdiston to implement a curriculum for coding and robotics in our schools.
“Some teachers are also currently in training to become certified instructors in the VEX educational robotics system.” (MM)