Caribbean education ministers meeting in Guyana

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) education ministers Wednesday began a two day meeting here seeking consensus and articulate concrete actions on a number of issues including the need to critically examine, at the local and regional levels, the barriers that stymie quality educational delivery and human capital development at all levels of the education system.

The meeting here will also discuss measures to govern successful implementation of the CARICOM Human Resource Development (HRD) Strategy which is a long term regional policy framework, endorsed by regional leaders in 2017.

The Strategy is expected to help create a globally competitive system to deliver education and training and produce citizens at all levels, who are equipped to function effectively in a 21st century economy and society.

In his address to the 38th meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) on Education, CARICOM Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque, said HRD must be one of the main engines for regional growth and development.

He said that at the heart of the HRD Strategy is the prioritisation of the construction, by 2030, of a globally competitive, innovative, and seamlessly integrated education system to drive inclusive sustainable development in the region.

“The key now is taking action to realise the vision of the HRD 2030 Strategy,” he said, noting that the issues to be discussed illustrate, in concrete terms, the actions needed at the level of member states, the CARICOM Secretariat and by some regional institutions, if the aspirations for Caribbean human potential are to be realised.

The two-day meeting is being held under the theme “Moving From Vision To Action,” and LaRocque said that the Council is being asked to seek consensus and articulate concrete actions on a number of issues including the need for a holistic response to the implementation of the HRD Strategy which requires increased and deepened inter-connectivity between regional and national agencies.

He said there was also need for active leadership at all levels to ensure sustainability for the innovative institutional mechanisms needed in member states and regionally to be implemented, enforced and monitored for impact.

“Such a critical examination must take into account the importance of quality teaching. Teacher quality has a strong determining influence on the success or failure of our students. Persistently high failure rates in specific subject areas, such as maths, cannot solely be attributed to the students.

'It calls for an assessment of the teaching methods at all levels to identify the strengths and weaknesses in order to create a more beneficial result for the students,” La Rocque said.

The region's top public servant told the ministers that there should be aware of the competing demands on already stretched national budgets.

“You will no doubt have made the case in your cabinets for prioritising the financing of education and training. Into that category falls the HRD 2030 Strategy. The reality is it cannot be practically realised in the absence of investment to support its implementation. As stated earlier, it is an investment with high returns.”

He said the meeting has before it a finance and costing plan which provides an estimate of the costs to successfully implement the Strategy.

“It uses best practices in costing and financing of education and training systems and takes into consideration the regional context within which the Strategy will be implemented. The plan also suggests possible methods and sources of financing."

LaRocque said that establishment of a safe and healthy school environment will also be discussed during the two-day ,meeting, noting that safe schools promote the protection of students from violence, exposure to weapons and threats, theft, bullying, and the sale and use of illegal substances on school grounds.

“Data on school-based violence in the Caribbean have revealed increasing incidences of violence in both primary and secondary schools. School-based violence has been associated with poor attendance, decline in performance, high drop-out levels and decreased academic achievement.

“Low educational attainment is associated with poor employment opportunities and crime and violence, which ultimately impacts on sustainable development of the region,” LaRocque said, adding that the meeting will also look at results from three complementary strategies which are being implemented to address the challenge.

“These are aimed at improving the schools' environment, as well as strengthening social and life skills among students, their peers and families,” he told the ministers.


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