|Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, chats with UNICEF’s Representative for the Eastern Caribbean, Khin-Sandi Lwin, during the courtesy call. (C. Pitt/BGIS)|
Barbados has approached the Child Friendly Schools’ Programme, initiated by UNICEF in the region in September, 2007, in a holistic way and will continue to do so.
This was underscored recently as UNICEF’s Representative for the Eastern Caribbean, Khin-Sandi Lwin, met with Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, and Ministry personnel at the Elsie Payne Complex, Constitution Road, St. Michael.
The meeting focused on the initiative, which the island has dubbed the Schools’ Positive Behaviour Management Programme (SPBMP).
Explaining the rationale behind the name change, Minister Jones told Mrs. Lwin that the notion of a child-friendly school in Barbados was seen as a "misnomer" since schools, by their very nature, were child friendly.?? He said: "SPBMP is holistic and embracing. The challenge is getting it to work and having persons stay on board. I think that is generally what our focus is… small numbers of people working together because right now we have 33 schools in the programme."
The UNICEF Representative noted that the Child Friendly Schools’ initiative was a globally defined approach and considered that maybe it had been introduced from one angle – namely "the positive behavioural approach".??
"…The approach is really about having a positive environment not only in how behaviour and discipline is managed but teaching and learning," said Mrs. Lwin, adding that it aimed for a safe and protective teaching-learning environment that was child-centred and allowed for "children to grow up in a much more holistic way".
Pointing out that countries had done well in respect of the dimension on positive behaviour management, she said a recent evaluation on the programme spoke to this need for "a much wider approach". Mrs. Lwin explained: "We can also explore how to maximise the teaching learning [aspect] so that you address children who are not coping with education system, [for example] potential drop outs so that the teacher is able to adapt the teaching to capture the ones who are slower in learning.
"Different methodologies in teacher training are really the intent. We want to look at the wider perspective of child friendly schools understanding that all schools are already child friendly; it is just a title you can put aside, but recognising that it is really a much more holistic approach [that we seek].
Education Officer, Janice Reid, who has responsibility for the SPBMP, acknowledged that Ministry personnel had noted the importance of differentiated instruction and continued to work on this area. "We recognised that we have a deficit there, so we started training some teachers in differentiated instruction; we are also looking at furthering this with Erdiston Teachers’ Training College to explore how that institution can assist teachers with respect to this particular concept."
The UNICEF Representative was further told that the Ministry was working in collaboration with parents, and entities such as PAREDOS, the Child Care Board, the Transport Board and some civil society bodies. And, Mrs. Reid said: "We realised we needed to have some parental involvement. Although it is strong at some schools, we want to have more and will work towards that…We realised too that we had to extend the programme to the Ministries of Health and Social Care and to those agencies that
impact on families and students because we understand it cannot be the Ministry of Education alone; it has to be other participants."
The Education Officer also disclosed that the Ministry’s team had considered that the initiative was not only about positive behaviours. She said: "It is also about the child who was misbehaving in some way, not necessarily naughty; the child could have been hungry; having problems with its parents being arrested and so on." Pointing out that the Ministry’s Student Support Services, with its psychologist and technical staff, were on board, she said, "We have a referral system here and we will train teachers on how to refer students to us or the Child Care Board. That is also part of the programme for this year."
Mr. Jones said he would welcome further cooperation with UNICEF. In noting the importance of cross fertilisation and the sharing of ideas, the Education Minister said: "Working [together] with the ministries that deal with social issues, we should be able to have a more engaging relationship over the next year."
The SPBMP is guided by three basic principles: child centredness, democratic participation and inclusiveness (equity). In a Positive Behaviour Management classroom, the teacher is mentor, the facilitator of learning and the coordinator of learning activities. Creativity, openness, flexibility, tolerance, good leadership and organisational skills become the avenues through which effective learning and teaching are maintained.