Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw has welcomed the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus’ Caribbean Educational Research Centre which she said is especially needed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought major adjustments to the delivery of education in the region.
Speaking at today’s launch of the Research Initiative for Supporting Education in the Caribbean (RISE) which is being funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and UWI, Bradshaw said a functioning research centre, with an interdisciplinary research focus that supports decision-making and policy development for education and innovation, is needed.
Bradshaw said the centre has the potential to improve the quality of education at the nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary levels, but it will also provide opportunities for students in various colleges and universities to contribute to the development of their countries.
The minister said the research has the potential to positively impact the lives of approximately 1 500 leaders in education, 10 000 teachers, and 200 000 students, as the centre spearheads investigations into issues that are specific to education in the sub-region.
“I think we have heard before that the issues they are likely to be looking into include, the impact of the COVID-19 on teaching and learning, the impact of assessment practices in the region and even in the factors that may influence students’ achievements across the entire region,” Bradshaw said.
“We welcome the idea of placing value on findings that are relevant to our Caribbean context and using those findings to develop best practices within education.
“Out of this research, we anticipate the achievement of a repository for research, support for decision-making processes for educational innovation, the contribution to the creation of international ties that facilitate the exchange of research and information, the placement of the University of South Florida and the University of the West Indies now as equal partners.”
The US government through USAID is investing more than $3.5 million in the RISE project, to promote policy-driven decisions grounded in education, research and high-quality data from Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
The United States Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Linda Taglialatela said the RISE project focuses on basic education themes and builds on the work the United States supported under the Early Learners Programme to train teachers and provide materials to improve literacy across the region.
The ambassador said in the United States, research revealed that one in five children experienced mental health problems and that there was a serious shortage of school psychologists.
Taglialatela said as a result of the US research an investment was made in doubling the number of psychologists, counsellors and other skilled workers to meet the mental health needs of students.
“Another area of personal interest is seeing how the RISE Caribbean project promotes research into gaps in education of children who are disadvantaged. This will better position countries to increase access to quality education that is safe, relevant and promotes the social well-being of vulnerable youth.
“I also look forward to the collaboration among US universities and other regional and national partners to leverage resources, strengthen systems and develop capacity in local institutions,” Ambassador Taglialatela said.
Professor Clive Landis, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Cave Hill Campus said the UWI will also make a counterpart contribution of over US$3 million to the RISE project.
He also commended Director of School of Education, UWI, Cave Hill Campus, Professor Joel Warrican and his colleagues who co-authored the winning proposal that resulted in the campus being awarded the USAID grant. Landis explained that the Caribbean Educational Research Centre replaces its predecessor the Education Evaluation Research Centre that was dormant for over a decade.
The Pro-Vice Chancellor said the revitalized enterprise is being launched with a remit to probe broader educational issues in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
He noted that as a premier tertiary level institution in the English-speaking Caribbean, the UWI is a key stakeholder to guide the development of education in the region.
The principal explained that while a study conducted by the School of Education has highlighted the fact that the pandemic has widened the inequality gap in education in the Caribbean and exposed the urgent need to examine the models of education in the region to make them more equitable and resilient in times of crisis, under the RISE project, this information can be used to contribute to and inform educational policy and planning in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
Professor Landis said: “It is well known that COVID-19 has placed international higher education at the crossroads. The RISE Caribbean initiative gives regional context to the global challenges facing school children due to the school closures, learning gaps, loss of socialization skills, rising levels of anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges.
“Through the Caribbean Educational Research Centre, the Caribbean will have a dedicated centre for educational research to focus on those issues that are most relevant and pressing to the countries of the Eastern Caribbean, carried out by researchers who understand local education systems. This is precisely the input that we need to tackle the COVID-19 crisis in education, but also focusing beyond the pandemic to build resilience and fairness into our educational systems”. (AH)