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CARICOM Member States given framework for learning recovery in education sector

A roadmap for learning recovery and enhancement for Caribbean schools is now available to principals of educational institutions within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), following the culmination of a multi-stakeholder partnership to mitigate the disruptions on school caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Titled Let’s REAP: Learning Recovery and Enhancement Programme for Principals, it is a roadmap produced  by a partnership involving the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Open Development & Education was the consulting firm recruited to support the development of the programme.

With a focus on schools and improving learning outcomes for all learners, the framework benefitted from consultations with the Regional Network of Planning Officers (RNPO), the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT), and the Caribbean Association for Principals of Secondary School (CAPSS), representatives of Ministries of Education and the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) in finalizing the actions recommended to principals.

In a virtual ceremony held recently, Chair of the Council for Human and Social Development, The Hon. Jeffery Lloyd, Minister of Education of the Bahamas, formally received the document. The ceremony involved the participation of Permanent Secretaries, Chief Education Officers, principals, teachers, representatives of Teacher Education Institutions, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Invited comments from stakeholders following the presentation of the Programme, highlighted Member States’ commitments to arrest the impact of learning disruptions caused by the COVID 19 pandemic and to undertake actions to get students back on a trajectory for learning success.

The Let’s REAP: Learning Recovery and Enhancing Programme for Caribbean Schoolsacknowledges the school as a key institution in educational success. At the same time, it recognizes that the school cannot be successful in isolation, but it has to operate within principles of inter-connectivity, inter-subjectivity and interoperability.The collaborating partners are cognizant that for the programme to be successful, it requires “a strong disposition, attitudes and skills for communication, collaboration, problem solving and networking.”

In her remarks during the ceremony, Programme Manager for Human Resource Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr Laurette Bristol reminded that the CDB, CARICOM, OECS Let’s REAP compliments and builds upon work done by the OECS through its Academic Recovery Programme. She lauded the multi-stakeholder participation that seeks to put students at the heart of education, and support principals who “operate at the coalface of society.”

“This is needed if principals and schools are to be actualised as agents of educational reform and social transformation,” Dr Bristol stated.

The Learning Recovery and Enhancment Programme for Caribbean Schools is built upon nine pillars including leadership, accountability, management and communication. It envisions the establishment of communities of practice among principals and across schools, and the setting up of structures to monitor and report student-learning outcomes. It also requires establishing and managing learning recovery and enhancement teams, coordinating teacher professional development, and coordinating data collection.

In receiving the Programme, Minister Lloyd lauded its timeliness and relevance in addressing what UNESCO has described as the “generational catastrophe” that is the impact of COVID on the education sector.

Emphasizing the importance of adopting the 22 points of action outlined in the Programme, he said principals and teachers must engage in the 3Ds of the teaching-learning process: Diagnostics, Differentiation and Dialogue.

As explained by the Senior Education Specialist with the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr Martin Baptiste, diagnostics involves the collection of data on where students are through assessments and testing. That process informs pedagogical methodologies for learning. He said differentiation involves the engagement of every student in the teaching-learning process in ways that addresses their unique and idiosyncratic needs, while dialogue underscores the importance of communities of practice where schools, teachers and principals have regular discussions about how they can improve students’ learning outcomes.

Even as schools reopen and shift to a new normal in the new academic year, Minister Lloyd said the education sector could not go back to business as usual.

“Following large periods of closures, students are going to return to what some suggest are uneven levels of learning and skills. In fact, some students may not return at all, especially those from disadvantaged background,” he stated. Against that backdrop, students will need tailored and sustained support as they readjust and catch up, the COHSOD Chair advised.

As the education system forges ahead, he said that measuring learning levels “will prove more important than ever,” and employing the 3Ds of the teaching-learning process is critical. Minister Lloyd referenced research from the UNESCO and UNICEF that suggests that little over a third of countries reported actions to measure learning loss in the primary and lower secondary levels through standardized testing in 2020.

“It is vital, experts report, that countries invest in assessing the magnitude of such loss so that appropriate remedial measures can be implemented,” Minister Lloyd stated.

Director for Human and Social Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Ms Helen Royer told stakeholders that “the time come has for us to stop speaking about what the COVID 19 Pandemic did to social systems, including education and start articulating the crisis of opportunity that was and is the pandemic.”

She said that the Region is “poised to radically transform education” in such a way that “we are not returning to a normal, that was quite frankly very inequitable, but building back better; designing education delivery that is innovative, enabling the recovery, transformation and improvement of Caribbean livelihoods.”

Explaining the scope of the Programme, she said it is designed to be implemented by principals in collaboration and in partnership with parents, teachers, students and the wider community. It envisions the positioning of the school as a Centre of Excellence, but interdependently connected to the other social institutions in its orbit, including the home, and the church, Ms Royer said.

Noting that the Programme reflects the vision of the CARICOM Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy, she added that it aims to unleash the potential of Caribbean citizens, “enabling the capacity of not just the student, but also the community of partners that are needed to ensure the success of that student.”

Dr Baptiste, during his remarks, informed the meeting that the CDB/ CARICOM and OECS Learning Recovery and Enhancement Programme was presented to the Board of Governors of the CDB on 28 June. He referenced the words of CDB’s President, Dr. Gene Leon who said that the framework strategises the “industrialization of knowledge as part of building resilience in the region.”

The Senior Education Specialist lauded the work of the collaborating partners and other stakeholders to “deliver, in very short order” a roadmap that is poised to empower the “school community to function as an enterprise of learning.”

He said while other special remedial and accelerated programmes may also be considered, the focus here is on how schools can maximize the 5-6 hours of engagement of learners every day.  Fundamentally, he added, “it is about changing the DNA of the school as an enterprise for learning, where there is the technology of teaching excellence – driven by professional practice as the means by which we are going to recover the learning loss and engender and mainstream excellence in our teaching learning process.”

While the Programme focuses primarily on principals and schools, the support of Ministries of Education is critical to its success. In this regard, there are a number of commitments it outlines to them including the distribution of the document to all principals, a formal launch, establishment of focal points and their onboarding as well as pilot coaching for principals.

The collaborating partners: CDB, the CARICOM Secretariat and OECS Commission will oversee the monitoring and evaluation of the Learning Recovery and Enhancement Programme for Caribbean Schools.

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