Setting students up for success in Eastern Caribbean states

With support from GPE, the Eastern Caribbean states of Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines are investing in curriculum, teacher development and school leaders to improve student learning outcomes.

February 03, 2020 by Alvine Sangang, Global Partnership for Education Secretariat
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4 minute read
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Students at the St Aloyisus R.C Boys' Primary School, St. Lucia. Credit: Quinton Morson, Education Planner, St Kitts and Nevis
Students at the St Aloyisus R.C Boys' Primary School, St. Lucia.
Quinton Morson, Education Planner, St Kitts and Nevis

In 2016, GPE approved of US$500,000 each for four island states located in the eastern Caribbean: Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The four states decided to take a partnership approach and developed one regional program under the coordination of their intergovernmental body, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). This US$2 million GPE program was implemented from July 2016 to September 2019.

Student learning at the center of the regional education sector strategy

Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines have all achieved universal primary education. Gender parity has been achieved at the primary level, with small differences at the secondary level between girls and boys.

The region recognizes the importance of quality education for improving social and economic development. Indeed, their 2012-2021regional education sector strategy, endorsed in May 2012, envisions a system in which ‘every learner succeeds.’

The strategy prioritizes teachers’ professional development, strengthening leadership and management, and improving curriculum and strategies for assessment.

The OECS 2016 Education statistics digest showed low learning results. For example, 67% of primary and secondary teachers were trained and in many of the islands, less than 60% of students attained competency in primary level national exams. The GPE program was designed to support OECS in filling these gaps.

The GPE-funded program put the focus on quality

The main objectives of the OECS Education Support Program (OESP) supported by the US$2 million GPE grant were to:

  • Develop and use quality learning standards to support evidence-based teaching and learning at the primary level
  • Improve teacher practices at the primary level
  • Strengthen primary school leadership and accountability
  • Strengthen monitoring and evaluation capacity in support of evidence-based strategic management and decision making.

Overall, 2,900 teachers and school leaders participated in professional development activities andmore than 43,000 children attending primary schools in the four countries benefited from it.

Key accomplishments of the OESP

In the area of curriculum, regional standards and an assessment framework for primary education in literacy, numeracy, science and social studies were developed and rolled out in the four countries.

The grant supported teacher development with programs on effective classroom practices, formative assessment, training of trainer’s workshops, summer institutes, peer coaching, and learning communities. By the end of the project, 2,700 teachers had benefited from training activities.

Leadership and accountability in schools was enhanced through revised job description and appraisal instrument for principals and the development of education leadership training manuals. Furthermore, 125 school leaders have completed professional development programs. A national forum for school leaders was held a few months before the project closed to facilitate a dialogue on standards for educational leadership, appraisal practices, outcomes of training programs, and recognize achievements of participants.

At the system level, monitoring and evaluation was strengthened by the creation of a toolkit disseminated to all education and curriculum officers in member states and designed for use beyond the life of the project.

Challenges

As in any program, challenges were encountered during implementation. For example, in Dominica, the start of the program was delayed due to post-hurricane reconstruction needs. In Grenada, additional time and collaboration with the teachers’ union was needed to secure teacher participation in workshops. To address coordination challenges, a local support person was hired in each country to address the challenge of coordinating between professional development activities and other initiatives in the respective Ministries of Education.

Stakeholders feedback largely positive

The GPE program allowed for greater networking and resource sharing among schools and among teachers at different schools. A survey conducted at the end of the program showed that teachers are more engaged with their planning and approach to teaching, a key condition to improve learning in the classroom. It also revealed that principals felt more empowered after their leadership training.

Most stakeholders agreed on the relevance and quality of the GPE program. The feedback highlighted the importance of monitoring and sustainability of initiatives beyond the project.

This was the first GPE regional grant based on a regional education sector plan, and so this program was a milestone for both GPE and the OECS.

Towards the next regional strategy and GPE-supported program

Though many challenges still lay ahead for OECS countries, the region has made important strides towards improving student learning. The regional approach enabled the partnership to make maximum use of the available resources and facilitate knowledge sharing among OECS countries. It underscored GPE’s principles of country ownership and strengthened sector coordination.

The region was awarded a sector plan development grant in 2018 to support a mid-term review of the ongoing regional sector strategy and prepare its next strategic plan.

With the lessons from the first GPE-supported program, the OECS will continue to ensure that ‘every learner succeeds.’

GPE grants to the OECS
  • 2014: US$298,500 (Sector plan development)
  • 2014: US$316,000 (Program development grant)
  • 2016-2019: US$2 million (Program implementation grant)
  • 2018: US$450,150 (Sector plan development)
Total: US$3.06 million
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