Caribbean Education after CoVid: Three things we should continuing doing when schools reopen

Caribbean Education after CoVid: Three things we should continuing doing when schools reopen

Education / by Russel John

“Tinkering with the system no longer works; we need a new vehicle of human empowerment and social transformation” (Caribbean Examinations Council, 2015)

The past few months have been both terrifying and exciting for the Grenadian education system. In many cases CoVid-19 has forced administrators and policy makers to embrace new ways of operating and ushered innovation centred on preserving the mental hental of all stakeholders. These ideals should not be abandoned after we get a hold of the CoVid 19 situation. In fact, now is the ideal time to redefine education at the school, district and government levels. Historically, major shifts in the education system have always been the foundation for transitions in our economy. Universal primary education aided the transition from the plantation to production based economy of the 1970’s. Universal secondary education underpinned our transition to the service based economy of the 1990’s onwards. Advancements in access to technology have begun to lay the foundation for universal tertiary education and the move towards an information based economy. Whether CoVid-19 has upended or fast tracked this change can be debated. Regardless, today we stare down the barrel of an uncertain economic future but our present realities assure us that this much is true; the future of work demands more effective & efficient teaching and learning practices. With that in mind, here are three practices that we should definitely keep in September and into the post CoVid era.

Keep using digital platforms

Whether through tools like Grenada’s M-Star Learning Support Platform or other e-learning solutions teachers should supplement face to face teaching, with digital class notes, student assignments and other resources. Blended learning practices must replace the traditional classroom experience. The long term result is a student body better prepared to deal with sudden disruptions to daily scheduled classes. In the Caribbean, this is a likelihood whether or not there's a global pandemic. In addition we will raise a generation better equipped to embrace opportunities for distance learning, a practice which has become commonplace in Higher Education. The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) has been pushing for the adoption and use of technology in education for several years. With the advent of e-grading in 2103, and e-testing in 2017, education in the region is going digital and we can’t afford to turn back now. Concerns over capacity, accessibility and equity in education were historical barriers to the full adoption of digital solutions, but here we are in 2020, forced to rapidly adopt digital technology while facing these same concerns. While there’s much to be done in order to level the playing field, teachers should definitely continue to incorporate digital tools in their practice in September and the years ahead.

Fully embrace Asynchronous Learning & flexible schedules

This is one of the most important changes that must be made within the Caribbean education system. It has the potential to directly affect the way we live and work as a society. Asynchronous learning is at the center of digital instructional strategy and is directly linked to the idea of remote work and work from home arrangements. These ideas have helped shift the emphasis from being physically present to getting the job done in the time frame provided. Understanding that work is something you do and not really “a place that you go”, the new CoVid 19 class schedules have facilitated more of this “bigger picture” mindset. Teachers and students alike have been given the opportunity to develop behavioural skills and attitudes which transcend fields of study and employment. These include creativity, time management, prioritization, problem solving, decision making, initiative, autonomy and agency.

Among the most sought after attributes in employment, entrepreneurship, community development and leadership on a whole, the future of work will rely heavily on these skills. Systems which promote the development of these behavioural attitudes should never be abandoned.

Maintain Continuous Teacher Training

Several other mindset changes must take place in order for us to embrace and facilitate digital learning and instruction. To this end, the Ministry of Education in Grenada has implemented weekly teacher training over the past month and committed at least one hour of professional development centred around the use of digital tools in education. In like fashion, students should also learn how to use technology for professional work as nimbly as they use it for social media and entertainment. Such initiatives are a necessity in bridging the learning gap between early adopters of technology and the stalwarts of the chalk and talk physical era both of whom will be responsible for raising the upcoming generation of thinkers and creators.

Training, with an emphasis on developing should continue to be commonplace in September and throughout the post CoVid era. Teachers and students must be equipped to reconsider and adjust their modes of presentation, methods of assessment and other collaborative practices that best fit the current age.

As a nation, a region and a people we have repeatedly grappled with daunting odds and this juncture is no different; necessity remains the mother of invention and hardship the father of ingenuity. With a willingness to adapt to and embrace change, we may well navigate the uncharted journey ahead and emerge better for it.