COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE SEVENTEENTH MEETING OF THE COUNCIL FOR HUMAN AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT (COHSOD), 17-18 NOVEMBER 2008, GEORGETOWN, GUYANA
Posted in: Communiques | 18 November 2008 | Release Ref #: NA | 1528
The Seventeenth Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) which focussed on Education was convened under the theme: Accelerating the Implementation of the Education Agendaand was held at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, Guyana on 17-18 November 2008.
In attendance were:
The Hon. Vince Henderson, Minister of Education, Sports, Youth Affairs and Human Resource Development, Dominica who chaired the Meeting; Hon. Bertrand Joseph, Minister of Education, Sports and Youth Affairs, Antigua and Barbuda and interim Chair of the COHSOD; Hon. Ronald Jones, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Barbados; Sen. the Hon. Franka Alexis-Bernadine, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Grenada; Hon. Shaik Baksh, Minister of Education, Guyana; Dr. the Hon. Henry Jeffrey, Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Guyana; Ms. Desrey Fox, Minister within the Ministry of Education, Guyana; Hon. Arsene James, Minister of Education and Culture, Saint Lucia; Hon Girlin Miguel, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, St Vincent and the Grenadines; Hon. Edwin Toekidjan Wolf, Minister of Education and Community Development, Suriname; Senator the Hon. Esther Le Gendre, Minister of Education, Trinidad and Tobago and the Hon. Dr. Carlton Mills, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture, Turks and Caicos Islands, and their delegations.
The delegation from the Netherland Antilles which was led by the Minister of Education, Hon. Mrs Omayra E.V. Leeflang was accorded observer status at the Meeting.
Representatives from institutions and organisations including the Caribbean Association of National Training Agencies (CANTA); Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT); Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC); Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Teacher Training (CETT); the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development (CCYD); Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN); CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS); United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); University of the West Indies (UWI); University of Guyana (UG) and the UWI-CARICOM Project were in attendance.
The opening ceremony was addressed by the CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General, Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite who noted the achievements of the Education Sector over the past decade, underscored the important role of education in regional integration and challenged the meeting to use education to build human capital, thus ensuring that people remain at the centre of development.
The Hon. Bertrand Joseph, Minister of Education, Antigua and Barbuda and interim Chair of the Council, noted the strong connection between health and education and pointed to the important role that education should play in creating awareness of preventive strategies and behaviour change necessary to improving wellness and maintaining healthy lifestyles.
He asserted further, that the Education Agenda for the 21st Century must consider the diversity in the human experience and must intersect with other disciplines such as culture, cultural industries and edutainment to reach the widest cross section of the population.
In delivering the welcome address, the Honourable Shaik Baksh, Minister of Education, Guyana, outlined several challenges which he stated had evolved into a socio-economic crisis confronting the Region. Nevertheless, he expressed optimism that the regional education sector could facilitate a response by producing quality leadership for both the public and private sectors which, in his estimation, were the engines of economic growth and development. He also underscored the need for greater collaboration among tertiary level institutions as well as among Ministers of Education within the Region.
Dr. Edward Greene, Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Social Development, CARICOM Secretariat, who chaired the opening ceremony, emphasised the importance of expediting the implementation of education policies and programmes within the Caribbean Community. Notwithstanding, he enumerated several successes of the education system noting that much had been done by way of implementation, chief of which he cited were the work of the CXC in providing quality standards and comparable certification at the secondary and post secondary levels; and the achievement by Member States of most of the targets for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
THE CARIFORUM-EU ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT (EPA): IMPLICATIONS FOR THE EDUCATION SECTOR IN THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY
A special feature of the opening ceremony was the discussion on the recently signed Economic Partnership Agreement and its implications for the education sector in the Caribbean Community. A panel discussion led by Mr. Carl Greenidge, Deputy Senior Director, Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM), Hon. Dr. Henry Jeffrey, Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Guyana and Ms. Celine Amerlone, European Commission, highlighted the main issues in the EPA that were of relevance to the education sector. The panellists identified the basic structure of the service and investment provisions that provides the framework for the services and market access of particular relevance to educational services. While different countries operate different educational sub-sectors at the primary, secondary, tertiary and continuing learning levels, provision was made in the EPA schedule for limitations on market access and national treatment granted to Foreign Service Suppliers. This means for example, that opportunities exist for Caribbean education and training institutions to supply services by either establishing them in the European Union or via the Internet, online or correspondence courses. On the other hand, the European Union citizens could acquire Caribbean education services if privately provided and paid for by individuals.
The discussion highlighted important opportunities beyond the education schedule that were relevant to the Region’s educational agenda. These include the Cultural Protocol related to entry into the European Union by artists and other cultural practitioners, rules of services related to mutual recognition of educational qualifications within three years, training with respect to foreign languages, business techniques and measures, data bases and access to independent professionals for legal advisory services, computer and related services, research and development services, market research and opinion polling and translation and interpretation services.
The wider development implications of the EPA resided in the provisions for technological cooperation, technology and intellectual property. Hence, the major implications for the educational sector in the Caribbean, is in the ability to capitalise on initiatives for increased competitiveness, innovativeness, networking alliances, adaptability and flexibility. In addition, there is need for giving priority to building human resource capability, marrying Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Information and Communication Management (ICM), and constantly assessing the link between training and academic education, particularly as they related to “background” skills required to keep pace in a variety of areas ranging from intellectual property to market access. In this way the negative consequences for public universities will be reduced, market commitments of EU suppliers stimulated, and permit education suppliers to respond more adequately to the requirements of the labour force of the second millennium.
THE CARICOM SINGLE MARKET AND ECONOMY (CSME)
Free movement of skilled workers under the CSME
The COHSOD received an update from the Meeting of Officials on the Free Movement of Skills and Facilitation of Travel, which outlined strategies in monitoring the status of implementation of the various components of the Free Movement of Persons Regime.
Contingent Rights in the CSME
The COHSOD noted the outcomes of the Second Meeting on Contingent Rights which identified elements to be incorporated in the Protocol on Contingent Rights. The Meeting also noted that the process of development of a protocol on Contingent Rights was still in its first phase.
Caribbean Vocational Qualification in schools and the workplace
The COHSOD received an update on the implementation of the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) which would further facilitate free movement of workers even while contributing to the enhancement of skills training in schools and in the workplace and noted that the CVQ was launched in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The Meeting further noted the progress made and in the streamlining of arrangements by the Caribbean Association of National Training Agencies (CANTA) for the issue of the CVQ in post-secondary institutions and workplaces where the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) had awarded the CVQ to students of secondary schools in 2008. The Meeting also made recommendations to ensure that additional Member States were able to benefit from the CVQ.
Establishment of the Regional Accreditation Agency for Education and Training
The COHSOD noted that only three Member States had signed the Inter-Governmental Agreement establishing the Caribbean Community Accreditation Agency for Education and Training; discussed the implications and urged Member States to sign the agreement and commit the necessary funds to ensure the commencement of operation of the Agency by June 2009.
FUNCTIONAL COOPERATION IN EDUCATION: ACHIEVEMENTS AND DEFICITS
Achievements and gaps in implementation
The COHSOD conducted a general review of its mandates from COHSOD and those of the Conference of Heads of Government on the education agenda over the period 1998 and 2006. Reference was made to the Eighteenth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in 1996 which devoted its meeting to “a vision of Human Resource Development” and the major recommendations for policies and programmes to increase tertiary level enrolment, enhancing quality education and placing greater emphasis on science and technology.
The assessment indicated that there were still deficits in those areas, although some countries like Barbados had exceeded the goals of tertiary level education. The assessment also revealed that much strides have been made in increasing language competences, especially Spanish and in national literacy and numeracy standards. For the most part, early childhood education had exceeded the targets set in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Progress had also been made in the areas of Health and Family Life Education, the Caribbean University Programme for the Integration of Distance Education (CUPIDE), the Caribbean Learning and Knowledge Network - a web based system of connecting tertiary level institutions, teacher training and the strategies for increasing access to secondary education.
With respect to the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), the improved six point grade system, the introduction of CAPE and the introduction of the Caribbean Vocational Qualifications, initiated in Trinidad and Tobago were all positive trends. However, the COHSOD agreed that if the education agenda were to contribute meaningfully to the development of globally competitive human resources, greater emphasis must be placed on information and communications technology throughout the schools system and tertiary level institutions and other agencies must facilitate research and development.
Improving Collaboration Among Tertiary Level Institutions
The Seventeenth Meeting of the COHSOD received a presentation from the University of the West Indies (UWI) in 2005 on “Liberalisation of higher education and its impact on the UWI”. Since that report, much attention had been given to improving collaboration among tertiary level institutions to collectively cope with the global implications of liberalisation and other more specific regional concerns. This approach is particularly relevant to capitalising on the opportunities in the EPA with special implications for tertiary sector not only in terms of output of graduates but in terms of research and project design and development. It was noted that in the English and non-English-speaking Caribbean, quality assurance initiatives were linked to government agencies and higher education policies. Barbados; Guyana; Jamaica; St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago had accreditation mechanisms in place, with Jamaica being the longest established. The Bahamas; Belize and Suriname had formulated or approved regulatory statutes for higher education. In this regard, the establishment of the Regional Accreditation Authority approved by The Twenty-Eight Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in 2007 was an urgent requirement.
Reforming Teacher Education and Training
An Update on the OAS Project, on the Reform of Teacher Education titled Responses to the challenge of improving the quality of recruitment and selection, initial formation, professional development and evaluation of teachers in countries in the hemisphere was presented to the Meeting. The presentation outlined best practices in informing and transforming the teacher preparation and professional development policies and practices, thereby enabling National Ministries of Education to produce professional teachers with high performing competencies. The COHSOD noted the progress of the implementation of the Project on Teacher Education and urged Member States to support the work of the Task Force on Teacher Education.
Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network: improving access through Distance Education
The meeting examined the issues and challenges confronting the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN) which was established to build capacity at the tertiary level in increasing greater access to quality tertiary education in the Region, using distance modalities, and identified issues and challenges related to establishing the regional network. The report highlighted collaboration, platforms and technology infrastructure and shared resources as critical elements in achieving a measure of success in E-learning, and pointed to strides in the process of bridging teacher training institutions within the Caribbean; facilitating consultations in Information Technology; providing technical assistance to Ministries of Education to develop IT policies and providing training in content development for delivery of tertiary services.
The Meeting further discussed the initiatives and perspectives outlined in the presentation and endorsed recommendations for the way forward which of necessity would include functional cooperation and establishment of the regional network.
The Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Teacher Training (CCETT)
The Meeting of the COHSOD noted the best practices of the Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Teacher Training (CCETT) Reading, a project designed to improve reading instruction in the first three Grades of primary school and ultimately to improve student achievement. The Meeting further noted the significant successes of the programme in the teaching of reading and agreed to consider the integration of the Caribbean Centre of Excellence reading programme into the education system as a matter of educational policy.
A VISIONARY PLAN FOR MOVING THE CARIBBEAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL (CXC) TO A HIGHER LEVEL
The Council received and endorsed a visionary plan for moving the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) to a higher level over the period 2008-2012. Having already earned respect regionally and achieved recognition internationally in earlier decades, the regional body highlighted its current focus on securing the global competitiveness of the Caribbean. To this end, the Ministerial meeting addressed the key issues of quality assurance and the expanded relevance of CXC offerings as well as the strengthening of the security in the conduct of the examinations. The critical importance of Information Technology (IT) for CXC as an institution and for Caribbean students as they prepare for a changed world and a changing workplace was emphasised. In this regard, the role of the CXC website in highlighting best practices, facilitating access and ensuring technology transfer was highlighted. The CXC also disclosed for the benefit of the Ministerial meeting, initiatives geared towards teacher improvement and human resource development for its core staff and the regional pool of teacher-markers.
INVESTING IN THE KNOWLEDGE BASED ENVIRONMENT
CARICOM Science and Technology Agenda
The Meeting of the COHSOD received a presentation of the CARICOM Science and technology agenda which treated with issues related to Human Resource Development as well as continuing education and professional development; and placed focus on women in science and technology. The presentation further explored research to enhance the teaching of science and technology particularly in adapting exploratory and experiential teaching strategies as well as revisiting the approach to setting exams in this discipline. The Meeting examined the framework and discussed its implications for education systems.
CREATING STRONG FOUNDATIONS FOR THE FUTURE
Regional Framework for Action for Children
Within the framework of evaluating strong foundations for the future, the Meeting of the COHSOD examined the implementation of the Regional Framework for Action for Children. The areas of emphasis within the Framework were outlined, including child protection, early childhood development, infant and maternal mortality, retention of children in school and respect for the rights of children. The responsiveness of the framework to emerging needs and priorities was highlighted. In this regard, Ministers noted that recent emphasis on climate change had led to a focus on actions and concerns relevant to children facing emergencies. The Meeting agreed that Member States should undertake national consultations to review their progress regarding the goals and targets set out in the Revised Framework and advised the CARICOM Secretariat of the actions taken to date to advance the goals outlined in the Framework.
Health and Family Life Education
The Meeting addressed the issue of Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) in the context of a global and regional environment in which young people find themselves continuously at risk not only from health but also from social factors. The Meeting heard the “voices of young people” as they candidly expressed their views of issues such as HIV and Aids, sexuality, crime and violence, use of drugs and bullying. The general consensus was that keen attention should be paid to what these young people were saying and that programmes for Health and Family Life Education should be developed and implemented at all levels in order to address the moral decline that was evident in the society. The Meeting agreed that implementation of effective programmes for HFLE should be a priority in the Region.
The Wellness Revolution
The Meeting of the COHSOD underscored the critical role of education in creating awareness of the need to maintain healthy lifestyles and noted the activities in which Member States engaged in observing the first Caribbean Wellness Day in response to one of the tenets of the Port-of-Spain Declaration on uniting to stop the epidemic of non-communicable diseases.
The Meeting further recognised the need for the formulation of policies to ensure that physical activity and healthy school meals were promoted in all schools across the Region and supported the policy strands on inclusion of physical education (PE) as part of the curriculum for at least one hour per week at all levels of the school system; the facilitation of PE through the necessary infrastructure such as change rooms and spaces in which to conduct physical activity including access to playing fields and gyms; the promotion of a building code for new schools which includes changing rooms, showers, gyms and playing fields; the development of regional Nutrition Standards for healthy school meals; and the restriction of unhealthy foods being sold on school premises and by vendors around the school.
Regional Crime Prevention Strategy and Plan of Action
The Meeting considered the presentation on the proposed Regional Crime Prevention initiative which was being developed in collaboration with Development Partners including United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in response to a Mandate from the Special Meeting of the COHSOD on Children which was held in March 2008 and which aimed at contributing to a reduction in the levels of violence and crime in Member States through a cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary approach. The strategy had adopted a multi-pronged approach which would address five strategic pillars and corresponding areas and related actions, to be implemented at the national and regional levels. The five Strategic Pillars on which the Proposed Plan of Action was based embraced the objectives of Reducing violence; Fostering Social Integration, Promoting Reintegration, Empowering victims, and Protecting Environmental and Economic Resources.
The Meeting approved the basic principles, objectives and strategic framework of the Plan of Action as a basis for further consultation with stakeholders at the national level.
Education for All: UNESCO Consultation on Inclusive Education
The Meeting noted and discussed the presentation made by UNESCO. The presentation highlighted issues in inclusive education, indicating the need to move beyond inclusion as special education, and link inclusion to the right to education and education for all; the need for system-wide reform based on strong political commitment towards inclusion, framed by new or revised national and regional policies; the importance of making schools as paradigms of inclusion in joint action with the communities; and the focus on teacher training, promoting teaching/learning skills and methodologies. The Meeting also received the new publication on Regional Guidelines for Developing Policy and Regulation and Standards in Early Childhood Development Services.
Gender Issues in Education
The Meeting considered the Report on Gender Differentials at the Secondary Level of Education Systems in the Anglophone Caribbean which had been undertaken by the Centre of Gender and Development of the University of the West Indies. The meeting noted with interest, the results of the Report in relation to gender and considered the implications for education, including the sex-role socialisation paradigm, teaching methods and curriculum. The Meeting also noted that the structure of Caribbean economies also played an important role in the disincentive of working class males’ engagement in education, and urged Member States to strengthen their gender mainstreaming efforts.
CULTURAL INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE EDUCATION SECTOR
The Meeting addressed the implications of cultural industry development for the education sector. It examined the income streams associated with cultural goods and services as well as intellectual property and the significant return on investment represented by cultural industries. Creativity was recognised as an engine of growth especially within the context if the Region’s comparative advantage in the breadth and depth of cultural expressions. The work of the Regional Task Force on Cultural Industries in addressing a range of concerns was outlined. The Meeting endorsed the need for improved, co-ordinated action with regard to human resource development for the cultural industries at all levels of the educational system.
MATTERS FOR INFORMATION
The CARICOM Commission on Youth Development
The Meeting received a progress report on the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development (CCYD), which was established in response to the mandate from the Meeting of the COHSOD to conduct a full scale situation analysis of the challenges and opportunities for youth in the CSME. The Meeting further noted that a CCYD team had been capturing data on the dreams and aspirations of youth through focus group discussions across twelve Member States, and a Literature Review, processed by a Consultant. Both had converged on several themes including Enrolment, Gender disparity, Expenditure on Education, Universal access, the Purpose of Education, Skills training, School Violence, the Teaching/Learning Process, and Teachers and Teaching. The report also indicated that the strongest implication for the CSME was the lack of ownership by youth of the CSME purportedly caused by what was described as the information and education gap in the CSME.
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF STUDENT PERFORMANCE
The Meeting received a presentation on the international benchmarking of students and noted the position of Trinidad and Tobago in this endeavour. The Meeting recognised the importance of this activity for gauging the effectiveness of the education system and agreed to collaborate with each other in this regard.
REPORT ON THE MEETING OF A TECHNICAL WORKING GROUP ON THE CARIBBEAN SPECIFIC MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
The Meeting received the Report of the Technical Working Group and pledged its support for the activities outlined.
Ministers of Government expressed their appreciation to the Government and people of the Republic of Guyana for the excellent arrangements put in place for the conduct of the business of the meeting, and the warm hospitality extended to Delegates. They also recorded their gratitude for the support and participation of the regional and international partners and the Secretary-General and Staff of the CARICOM Secretariat for the arrangements and effort made to ensure the success of the Meeting.