The Twenty-Seventh Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) on
(Education and Children) was convened under the theme: Safeguarding our Region’s Future: Reshaping education for the Twenty-First Century” at the CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Georgetown, Guyana on 16-17 July 2015. The meeting was chaired by the Hon. Shawn Richards, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Youth, Culture and Sport, St. Kitts and Nevis.
In attendance were: The Hon. Ronald Jones, Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation of Barbados; Dr. The Hon. Rupert Roopnarine, Minister of Education, Guyana; Hon. Ms. Nicolette Henry, Minister within the Ministry of Education, Guyana; Hon. Delmaude Ryan, Minister of Education; Montserrat (via videoconference); and Dr. The Hon. Robert K. Lewis, Minister of Education, Human Resource Development and Labour of Saint. Lucia.
Mrs. Rosa Greenaway, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology represented Antigua and Barbuda; Mr. David Leacock, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports represented Belize; Ms. Dorrett Campbell, Deputy Chief Education Officer for Schools Operations represented Jamaica; Ms. Judy H. Koorndijk, First Secretary, Suriname Embassy, represented Suriname; The Trinidad and Tobago representative at the Meeting was Mr. Bertrand Moses, Child Development Specialist.
Also in attendance were representatives of Regional Institutions and International Organisations including, the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC); United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); University of the West Indies (UWI); West Indies Cricket Board (WICB); United Nations Children Fund – Eastern Caribbean Area (Barbados); United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) – Guyana; Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN) (via ZOOM);
At the opening ceremony, chaired by Director, Human Development, CARICOM Secretariat, Ms. Myrna Bernard, statements were presented by Hon. Shawn Richards, Chair of the COHSOD; Hon. Rupert Roopnarine, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Guyana, and Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Social Development, CARICOM Secretariat,. Young student Justine Hamer presented a poem, titled, “If I were deaf.”
Minister Richards, in his address, stressed the need for systemic reform in education to match the needs of the Caribbean student in the digital age, whose lived realities were largely built around inter-connectedness and immediacy. The Minister noted that this radical change in “our” students was increasingly rendering our education system irrelevant and ineffective.
He pointed in particular, to the need for reforms in the areas of teacher preparation and continued professional development, leadership training and other technical areas. An important element of that reform, he added, should be the architecture and governance of education systems, and not merely the content of education.
The Minister reminded that recommendations emanating from the Meeting were intended to provide advice to the CARICOM Commission on Human Resource Development which had been tasked with the development of a Regional Education and Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy, and also noted that such a Strategy needed to be developed with focus on a ‘whole systems’ approach to educational transformation.
Minister Roopnarine in welcoming his colleague Ministers and other participants to the meeting also stressed the need for the Region to look deeper into the problems that plagued education. He felt Caribbean countries were, by and large, conservative societies, with ‘our establishment’s best and brightest the products of a pedagogy that had perhaps outlasted its usefulness and its relevance within the present context’.
The Minister advocated for greater levels of regional functional cooperation in development-related research. He also felt that the time had come to truly mainstream Culture in development, while also encouraging heritage consolidation and creative industry growth and consolidation. The Minister also stressed the need to return to the spirit of innovation that had always driven the Region, as its people reshaped their fundamental selves to face whatever lay ahead.
Dr. Slater pointed to the connection between the Meeting’s theme, “Reshaping Education to address the requirements of the 21st century”, and attaining the economic, social, environmental and technological resilience being targeted by the CARICOM Strategic Plan, being implemented from this year.
He noted that the economic and social challenges faced by the Region stemmed in significant measure from strategies for human resource development that were not geared to fostering the competencies required for working and living in the 21st century.
THE CARICOM STRATEGIC PLAN: AN OVERVIEW
COHSOD received and discussed the CARICOM Strategic Plan, 2015-2019, which was endorsed by CARICOM Heads of Government at their Thirty-fifth Regular Meeting in July 2014 in Antigua and Barbuda. The Strategic Plan adopts a resilience model with four main strategic priorities of building economic, social, environmental and technological resilience.
The COHSOD agreed that the resiliencies should be underpinned by a ‘systems’ approach and that the ultimate outcomes ought to be strong economic growth, reduction in poverty and unemployment, improved quality of life, and an integrated Community for all. The key drivers of the social resilience aspect of the CARICOM Strategy include education reform, to be led by the Commission on Human Resource Development; youth development; advancing health and wellness; and deepening crime prevention initiatives and programmes.
The Meeting noted that the CARICOM Secretariat was currently engaging Member States and Regional Institutions in the development of the 2015 Operational Plan for the Community Strategic Plan.
The COHSOD also considered the UN Global Post 2015 Agenda, which would be adopted by the Special Summit on Sustainable Development at the United Nations in September. The Meeting noted that the event would introduce a new universal integrated framework for sustainable development and would replace the MDGs with a superior process that was transformative and inclusive. The COHSOD further noted that this process was designed to achieve a global paradigm shift in thinking about sustainable development and also in the mechanisms needed at the national, regional and international levels to ensure coherence in policy development and implementation necessary to achieve the goals.
The meeting recognized the importance of aligning national plans and programmes with the CARICOM Strategic Plan and the need for the process to be guided by Member States especially as it related to emerging issues.
RESHAPING EDUCATION IN THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY: Development of an Education and Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy
The main purpose of the Meeting was to afford Member States the opportunity to provide perspectives and advice to be taken into account by the Commission on Human Resource Development which had been tasked by the Conference of Heads of Government with the development of a CARICOM Education and Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy to address systemic reform in Education for 21st Century Economy and Society.
In relation to the CARICOM 2030 Education and HRD Strategy:
The COHSOD received a presentation on reshaping education in CARICOM for the 21st Century. The presentation took account of the significant strides which the Region had made in Education over the past 50 years, and the significant resources which had been expended on Education by CARICOM Governments but also outlined data which revealed the less than optimum outcomes, in terms of preparedness for both citizenship and employment.
The COHSOD received an overview of the composition and work of the CARICOM Commission on Human Resource Development. It was noted that the Commission would engage widely with a range of stakeholders in the development of the Strategy and in particular, with Member States in the context of national consultations. The Approved Strategy would be distilled into a comprehensive action plan, under-pinned by a budget and an attendant results-focused, gender-sensitive, and socially-inclusive Communications Strategy. It was also noted that the Commission’s work was expected to span a period of 18 months and would be supported by the Caribbean Development Bank.
COHSOD expressed appreciation to the members of the HRD Commission for their willingness to serve and their participation in the development of the HRD 2030 Strategy. The Meeting acknowledged the Caribbean Development Bank for its continued interest in furthering the development of Education in the Region and for favorably considering a funding proposal to support the work of the Commission.
The COHSOD engaged in focused discussion on perspectives and imperatives with regard to specific elements of the Strategy. These included:
IMPERATIVES FOR PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION: ADDRESSING UNIVERSAL SECONDARY EDUCATION
COHSOD noted that despite high levels of literacy and education attainment in the Region, there were major social challenges, including, crime and violence and youth unemployment that undermined the potency of education as a tool of regional integration and development. This required examination of the major purpose of education and in particular, its role as a social construct, intended to prepare a Caribbean Citizen with the knowledge, skills and social characteristics, better prepared to function in life, work and play. The COHSOD also emphasized the need for education at all levels to provide a socializing function and to have literacy, numeracy and creativity at its core. With regard to the secondary level in particular, certification in a Technical and Vocational area was seen as important, in addition to a core set of subject areas. The issue of the availability of a wider range of certification at this level was also recognized as an imperative.
The COHSOD discussed the quality imperatives for education, noting in particular, the need to revisit the professionalizing of teaching and in this regard, addressing the profile of a professional teacher in the context of a globalized 21st Century reality. The need to review the processes for the design and development of national curricula; for teacher preparation and continual professional development was seen as critical to addressing quality. In addition, the imperative of engagement of students in decision making about what they are taught; and diversifying and customizing the curriculum to nurture free and critical thinking, innovation and creative spirit were emphasized.
SKILLS FOR DEVELOPMENT: PREPARATION FOR THE WORLD OF WORK
COHSOD acknowledged the role of technical, vocational education and training in equipping students with life and employable skills for a dynamic and turbulent global environment and agreed that non-traditional areas of TVET be considered a priority in the HRD 2030 Strategy.
ICTs IN EDUCATION
COHSOD recognized Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a linchpin in educational services, opportunities and delivery. This was reinforced by the Mandate of CARICOM Heads of Government in 2014, that one of the ICT priorities to be treated with by 2019 is “Bringing Technology to the people and transforming them to Digital Citizens and Digital Entrepreneurs”. This initiative envisages that all citizens would be empowered with fundamental skills for digital literacy and also be encouraged to pursue entrepreneurship. The Meeting also discussed the need to pay special attention to disparities with regard to access to ICTs, and noted the need to adopt a model which reaches students in classrooms with different technologies. The need to engage ICT resources in both homes and schools was also emphasised.
Education trends for the next 15 years were examined for possible policy development. Additionally, the COHSOD considered the development of a digital literacy policy as part of the HRD Strategy.
ALIGNING AND RATIONALISING HIGHER EDUCATION
COHSOD discussed several issues emanating from a presentation on Higher Education. The discussion focused on prioritizing innovation, entrepreneurship and development, while addressing issues of access, equity, relevance and quality.
COHSOD further noted several initiatives underway to address some of the deficits identified in the Higher Education sector. Central were the proposed regional accreditation body for Higher Education in CARICOM, implementation of the Regional Qualifications Framework in Member States and the inclusion of TVET certification in the Regional Qualifications Framework.
The COHSOD also addressed specific regional initiatives currently being undertaken in CARICOM. These are highlighted below:
CARIBBEAN REGIONAL INTEGRATION: IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION
COHSOD received and discussed a presentation on the implications of Regional Integration for Education.
The Meeting acknowledged the number of initiatives undertaken at the Regional level to deepen the understanding of the integration movement. These included a CSME Student Exchange programme which provided post-secondary school students with the opportunity to experience the free movement process in a tangible way; the CARICOM Trade and Competiveness Project (CTCP) Teacher Sensitisation Seminar which provided teachers with information on the CSME and tools for teaching the operations of the CSME in classes and The Creativity for Employment and Business Opportunity (CEBO) Programme, a youth-focused entrepreneurial programme. These initiatives were recognized as important markers for fostering citizenship within Community.
COHSOD also acknowledged that central role of education in developing the ideal Caribbean Citizen, noting that such a person should, at the earliest opportunity, be equipped with the appropriate information, skills, competencies, attitudes and opportunities for them to participate actively in the Community.
COHSOD commended the work of the CARICOM Secretariat and advocated that the initiatives addressing Regional Integration should continue to be integral to programmes of study at all regional training institutions, including the Teachers’ Colleges. COHSOD also encouraged the CXC and national curriculum developers to incorporate issues of regional integration and the CSME into regional and national curricula.
MONITORING AND EVALUATING PROGRESS UNDER THE REGIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION ON CHILDREN: DEVELOPMENT OF A REGIONAL POST-2015 AGENDA
COHSOD received and discussed a presentation on the monitoring and evaluating progress under the Regional Framework for Action on Children (RFAC). The Framework was developed in 2002 as a response to the prevailing socio-economic conditions that were impacting negatively on the development and protection of children in the Region. The Meeting acknowledged the support provided by UNICEF in building the Monitoring and Evaluation Tool.
COHSOD committed, as a matter of priority, to identifying experts to serve as Focal Points for the Monitoring Tool, so that individual Member States can input their country data and the Region can determine the progress made in implementing the various areas of the Regional Framework for Action on Children.
The Meeting mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to work with Development Partners in building a Post-2015 Regional Framework of Action on Children, which would contribute significantly to the development of the CARICOM 2030 Human Resource Development Strategy.
AN INTEGRATED REGIONAL STRATEGY FOR ADDRESSING ADOLESCENT PREGNANCY IN CARICOM
The COHSOD received and endorsed an Integrated Regional Strategy for the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy, formulated to reduce the health, social and economic problems of adolescent pregnancy in the region. The Strategy was developed in a collaborative effort between the CARICOM Secretariat and UNFPA. COHSOD approved the development of an implementation plan to guide the roll-out of the Strategy. The Council supported the rollout of the Strategy and urged Member States to put the necessary systems, policies, legislation, resources and mechanism for its effective implementation. It was further agreed that Member States would share a set of standards for the enactment of legislation that can regulate the ages of marriage and consent in Member States.
WEST INDIES CRICKET BOARD (WICB) YOUTH CRICKET PROGRAMME FOR PRIMARY SCHOOLS FAIR PLAY INITIATIVE: CHILD PROTECTION IN A YOUTH CRICKET PROGRAMME
Having received a presentation on the Youth Cricket Programme for Primary schools from the representative of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), the COHSOD endorsed the WICB’s programme on the safeguarding of children in Primary Schools’ cricket; and approved the use of the Coaches Manual and Teachers Manual on Child Protection in Primary Schools in the Community.
CARICOM – SPAIN PILOT PROJECT: SUPPORT FOR REDUCING YOUTH ON YOUTH VIOLENCE IN FIVE CARICOM COUNTRIES
COHSOD received and noted a presentation on the CARICOM- Spain Pilot Project that provides support for reducing youth violence in selected schools and communities of five Member States of Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Project deploys strategies designed to build strong families, increase youth resilience to vulnerabilities, strengthen protective factors, and increase youth employability. The training interventions focused on parenting, mentoring and Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED), character development and fostering entrepreneurial, life, and social skills. Also included in the range of interventions are activities for reinforcing positive behaviours, strengthening attachment to, and bonding with schools and leadership development through the establishment of Champions for Change Clubs and After School (sports) Programmes. The Meeting noted that the pilot would be expanded to other CARICOM Member States with support from the 10th EDF Crime and Security cooperation Programme.
COHSOD further received information and a Concept Note with regard to the convening of a Regional Forum on Youth Crime and Violence in Guyana in October 2015, and committed to ensuring active participation of Member States.
Involvement of Member States
The COHSOD recognized the important roles which Member States were required to play in the development and roll out of the HRD 2030 Strategy as well as the implementation of other initiatives considered and endorsed by the Meeting and committed to working closely with the Secretariat and other institutions to fulfill these roles.
UPDATE ON CARIFESTA XII- HAITI- 21-30 AUGUST 2015
COHSOD received an update on CARIFESTA XII which would be hosted by the Government of the Republic of Haiti from 21-30 August 2015 under the theme “Our Roots, Our Culture, Our Common Future”. The Caribbean Festival of Arts is a multi-disciplinary, mega event that showcases the cultural expressions of artistes across the Caribbean Region.
The Meeting noted that to date, 12 CARICOM Member States had confirmed their attendance at CARIFESTA XII. COHSOD advised Member States to submit the required information to the Host Country in accordance with the deadlines, and also encouraged Member States to give their full support to the staging of CARIFESTA.
COHSOD expressed appreciation to the Government and people of Guyana for warm hospitality extended to delegates during their stay in Guyana. They also recorded their gratitude for the support and participation of the regional and international partners and to the Secretary-General and staff of the CARICOM Secretariat for the excellent arrangements and effort put in place to ensure the success of the Meeting.