The Forty-Fourth Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was held on 13-14 October 2022, under the theme “Education as and for Resilience.”
The Honourable Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology of Belize chaired the meeting, which was attended in person by Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts/ Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Anguilla. The Bahamas, Dominica, Montserrat, and the British Virgin Islands participated virtually.
Remarks were delivered by the current Chair of COHSOD, the Honourable Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology of Belize; Assistant Secretary-General for the Directorate of Human and Social Development, Ms Alison Drayton; and Guyana’s Chief Education Officer, Dr Marcel Hutson.
Hon. Fonseca called on his colleagues to articulate a clear vision for refocusing the education sector following the impact of COVID-19. Ms Drayton commended the Ministers of Education for their commitment to identifying solutions to respond to the setbacks in education from the COVID-19 pandemic. She urged a recommitment to pursue the goals of the CARICOM Human Resource Development (C-HRD) 2030 Strategy, and the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 for equitable, and quality education. Dr Hutson also urged Ministers to take all measures to strengthen the education sector.
(A news article on the remarks can be viewed at https://caricom.org/caricom-ministers-of-education-tackling-packed-agenda-in-georgetown/)
ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION ON REVISIONING EDUCATION
Ministers of Education participated in a Round Table Discussion designed to create the opportunity for the Ministers to articulate a new vision for education that took account of the impact of COVID 19 on education delivery and the need to overcome the inherent weakness in the provision of equitable, quality education. The COHSOD examined the role of Ministries of Education in creating and sustaining the conditions needed for schools, principals, and teachers to serve as the essential service actors in a system where every child must realise their full potential and agreed on several priority actions for the next 3-5 years, which were articulated in an accompanying Statement of Commitment (see below).
CARICOM HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT (HRD) 2030 STRATEGY
The COHSOD approved a Monitoring, Evaluation, Assessment and Learning (MEAL) Plan to track and assess the results of the CARICOM Human Resource Development (C-HRD) Strategy. Member States were urged to support the implementation of the Monitoring and Evaluation Plan which provides a framework for data collection, and information sharing on lessons learned and key performance indicators of the C-HRD. COHSOD discussed the need to design governance and accountability mechanisms for the use of data and information to improve education policy by 2024. In this context, CARICOM Ministers of Education mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to mobilize the resources necessary for the successful implementation of the C-HRD Monitoring and Evaluation Plan.
COHSOD assessed the rate of implementation of the C-HRD 2030 Strategy and applauded the Member States which have shown progress against the key performance indicators. The Council acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has created gaps in implementation, eroding some of the gains that were evident in the pre-pandemic period. It urged Member States to design interventions to address those gaps, to meet the goals of the C-HRD Strategy by 2030. COHSOD also urged Ministries of Education to invest in the use of Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) to support the coordination, monitoring and reporting on the progress of education access, participation, equity, relevance, and quality. This, the COHSOD noted, should be done across all three sectors of the education system, but especially in Tertiary Education and Skills for Lifelong Learning.
In agreeing to accelerate the implementation of the C-HRD, CARICOM Ministers of Education committed to enhancing coordination among relevant national agencies and mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to collaborate with the Regional Network of Planning Officers to coordinate an engagement in the United National Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Institute for Education and Planning to assess the efficiency of the Region’s education systems, with focus on survival rate.
The COHSOD discussed the CDB/CARICOM/ OECS Learning Recovery and Enhancement Programme for Caribbean Schools (Let’s REAP) project designed to arrest the learning loss that emerged due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. CARICOM Ministers of Education agreed to dedicate the resources necessary for Let’s REAP implementation, including resourcing capacity building among Education Officers, school leaders and teachers. They also agreed to establish of Communities of Practice to promote knowledge exchange within and between schools and urged the conduct of learning assessments to inform learning interventions in schools.
EDUCATION QUALITY AND EQUITY
The COHDSOD discussed the proposed Caribbean New School Model (CNSM) and endorsed the visions for educational transformation through efficient school-building designs, construction, repurposing, monitoring and evaluation of Early Childhood Centres, primary and secondary schools’ facilities to ensure that they are fit for agile educational delivery. The COHSOD agreed to approach the Caribbean Development Bank for assistance in assessing whether there are schools in the Region which are already designed with the vision of the CNSM and could serve as models for wider adoption.
The COHSOD also endorsed a proposed Basic Education Management Framework which guides action towards educational efficiency, coherence, and sustainability at the institutional and system levels. Toward this goal, they agreed to dedicate resources to enhance the capacity of education officers, teachers, and school leaders in basic education quality management, the use of technology and knowledge sharing. Underscoring the importance of data collection on the Framework, COHSOD expressed support for the development of integrated Education Information Systems to improve data collection and analysis to inform policymaking. The Council underscored the need for relevant legislative and policy measures to support the proposed Basic Education Management Framework.
CARICOM STANDARDS FOR THE TEACHING PROFESSION
The COHSOD expressed appreciation to the Government of Japan for supporting the implementation of the CARICOM Standards for the Teaching Profession in Member States and committed to supporting the implementation of the framework in Member States. It urged support for regional actionsto accelerate the implementation of performance standards for members of the teaching profession in the CARICOM region which focus on professional development, enhanced school leadership, community involvement, and student learning outcomes. Towards this goal, COHSOD recommended that Teacher Education Institutions align teacher training curricula and professional development programmes with CARICOM Standards for the Teaching Profession.
COHSOD discussed the guidelines for the establishment of National Teaching Councils, or equivalent bodies, that would function as the regulator for the teaching profession to oversee, inter alia, qualification frameworks and standardise entry-level requirements for the profession. COHSOD agreed to the establishment of National Teaching Councils, and the need to resource national readiness assessments through stakeholder engagements. The Council tasked the CARICOM Secretariat with mobilizing resources to support the communication and advocacy to accelerate the adoption and adaptation of National Teaching Councils in Member States.
BELIZE EDUCATION REFORM MODEL
COHSOD received a presentation from the Chief Education Officer of Belize on the country’s experience with transforming its curriculum to address several challenges in the education basic sector including teacher and student burnout from content overload across the basic education curriculum.
The presentation stimulated robust discussions on the pro and cons of formative and summative assessment. COHSOD agreed to approach the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) through the Ministries of Education for an engagement on incorporating more authentic assessments for learning. While acknowledging that summative assessments are important for certification of learning, employment, and higher educational achievements, COHSOD endorsed the need for regional curriculum reform. It mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to mobilise the necessary resources to support that process and to coordinate stakeholder engagement to discuss the issue.
CARICOM EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION
A presentation on the professionalization of Early Childhood Education (ECE) informed COHSOD’s decision to support the development of a CARICOM Early Childhood Development Association. COHSOD heard that the Region had achieved commendable levels of access to ECE however, the sector lacked the regulatory framework needed to ensure that enrolment was compulsory, and teachers were trained to be able to teach at this level. In endorsing the proposal for the Association, COHSOD urged information exchange among Member States on innovations in ECD services and delivery.
HEALTH AND FAMILY LIFE EDUCATION
COHSOD expressed appreciation to the University of the West Indies (UWI) Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR) for championing comprehensive Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) programme for the basic education sector. The COHSOD also expressed appreciation for the support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Canada to CAIHR’s Food and Nutrition Project, which saw the development of a suite of edutainment resources for HFLE classrooms.
COHSOD endorsed the use of the resources and urged Member States to review and adjust their HFLE curricula, as necessary, to align with the CARICOM HFLE for Primary and Early Childhood Curricula. COHSOD also urged Member States to increase investments in the training and development of HFLE educators for enhanced life-skills transfer.
CARICOM VOCATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS
The COHSOD approved 46 CARICOM Vocational Occupational Standards including in Agriculture, Animation, Blue and Green Economies, Energy, inclusive of Hybrid and Electrical Vehicle Maintenance, Event Planning, Mining, and Hospitality. The COHSOD underlined the importance of national investments in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to enhance instructor capacity and the digitization of TVET delivery to enhance the competitiveness of the workforce.
COHSOD also approved the implementation of the revised Regional Vocational Qualifications Framework (RVQF) which classifies and registers all TVET qualifications according to a set of regionally agreed standards or criteria for levels of learning and skills. COHSOD urged the Member States to revise, where necessary, National Qualification Frameworks to align with the regional standards, ensuring the portability of technical skills and qualifications within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
DIGITAL SKILLS TASK FORCE
COHSOD received an update from the Digital Skills Task Force on its work on digital skills for a digitally literate CARICOM citizenry to benefit from the digital economy. COHSOD recognised that the Education Sector is cited most as the indispensable sector for national and digital development and established the need for efforts to cater to the changes occurring in all sectors based on digital transformation – which is changing the shape of many of the key sectors such as agriculture, and tourism, among others. In support of the work of the Task Force, COHSOD noted the importance of an all-of-society, inter-sectoral approach and urged the Member States and regional bodies to provide the requisite support to the Digital Skills Task Force.
REGIONAL STRATEGY FOR TRADE IN EDUCATION SERVICES
COHSOD having received an update on the preparation of the Draft Regional Strategy and Implementation Plan for Trade in Education Services which is part of the Regional Strategic Plan for Services, agreed to establish a Cross-Sectoral Committee to review, update, finalise and submit the former for its consideration in early 2023.
The COHSOD commended the Caribbean Education Research Centre for its contribution to the development of education through data-driven policy dialogue and policy. It recommended that Ministries of Education utilize the services of the Centre to design educational interventions based on research data.
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat
18 October May 2022
See Meeting Photos
STATEMENT OF COMMITMENT
44TH MEETING OF THE COUNCIL FOR HUMAN AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT (COHSOD-EDUCATION)
MINISTERIAL ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION
13 OCTOBER 2022
CARICOM SECRETRIAT HEADQUARTERS, GEORGETOWN, GUYANA
Cognizant of the serious impact of the of COVID 19 on education delivery and the lives of learners, teachers, and communities and the need for a new investment in education through a regional coordination of resources to support education financing.
Recognizing that the COHSOD is the organ responsible for the promotion of human and social development in the Community and as such is charged with the responsibility of accelerating human capital development through the “efficient organization of education training facilities in the Community, including elementary and advanced vocational training and technical facilities.”
Appreciating the urgent need to address matters impacting the progress of the implementation of the CARICOM Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy in the region.
Also appreciating the need to re-examine the role of Ministries of Education in creating and sustaining the conditions needed for schools, principals, and teachers to serve as the essential service actors in a system where every child must realise their full potential.
Further appreciating the need to articulate the practical means through which regional, systemic, and local actions can be refocused to ensure that gaps in the learning trajectory created by school closures will be addressed, and in the process, mitigate against reductions in national productivity and individual earning power over the next three to five years.
Also recognising that we cannot continue as we have been doing over the past few years.
Further recognizing the need for an ambitious reform agenda, reprioritizing the implementation of the CARICOM-HRD 2030 Strategy given ongoing demands for education system resilience and agility to respond to the provision of equitable access to quality education in times of crisis to drive the social and economic wellbeing of society.
Understanding that the world changes at a rapid pace and so what we teach and learn and how we teach and learn must constantly evolve. Curriculum instruction and assessment must be designed to promote deep learning to focus on what students are able to do with the knowledge that they acquire and the extent to which they are able to think critically to solve problems in a healthy, productive, and sustainable manner.
Also understanding the need for a global and multi-dimensional approach to student support services for educational innovation to ensure that the emerging generations are given the best possibilities.
We the Ministers of Education, participating in the Forty-Fourth Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development convened under the theme “Education as and for Resilience”:
- Commit to rethinking education and what it should accomplish to enable students to exit schools with confidence as Caribbean citizens who are participants and power brokers.
- Commit to an increased engagement with teachers, parents, and other stakeholders as partners in educational delivery to mainstream the value of education to the wellbeing of the whole person, allowing children and youth to pursue their passions.
- Commit to the delivery of a more holistic education, through the expansion and currency of TVET education; increasing focus on the visual and performing arts, to increase multiple pathways to qualifications and aggressively bring the region into economic prosperity. This requires increased financing for TVET training to bolster the sector.
- Commit to shifting the focus of education from content to competencies to greater align education with what we want for national and regional economic development objectives.
- Commit to ‘accelerating’ learning but ‘decelerating’ where appropriate to connect our children to purposeful learning and livelihoods, increasing educational engagement and challenging for high expectations.
- Commit to providing the professional development to shift from teaching to tests to teaching to standards. Providing the support needed to enhance practices of school leadership and leading for learning for educational sustainability.
- Commit to providing the enabling environment in schools to allow young people to start their own businesses to bridge the gap between education and the emerging jobs in the society. This approach requires us to rethink what happens in the classroom, with children and youth, to ensure that students are active in decision making, stay engaged and feel that they are a part of society and can make a meaningful contribution to the society.
- Commit to the use of research to drive innovative practice and policy in education for comprehensive monitoring and evaluation and sustainable educational impact.
 RTC 2001- Articles 17 and 27