Facilitator of the consultation, CARICOM’s Programme Manager for Human Development, Dr. Morella Joseph, in discussion with education officials. At left is Acting Chief Education Officer, Laurie King. (C. Pitt/BGIS)
Quality education is linked to teacher professionalism.
This was the clear message issued to educators and teachers by Acting Chief Education Officer (CEO), Laurie King, as he addressed the start of a consultation on The National Teaching Council and the Regional Standards of Performance for the Teaching Profession today, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
The national stakeholder meeting was jointly-hosted by the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development and the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT).
Mr. King said: "Quality education can only be maintained through increased professionalism of the teaching service.?? You will find that as we move forward, issues related to tenure will be inextricably linked to ongoing professional training. The education sector must continue to reposition itself to respond and fulfil local and regional needs; the refocusing and re-organisation of existing systems and programmes to ensure that it produces persons who could fulfil the requirements of the labour force must be an ongoing venture."
He explained that this might necessitate the development of structures and programmes "which would allow for timely and appropriate responses to the seemingly ever-changing local and regional demands".
"Thus, the development of an education system that builds and sustains a functioning, knowledge-based society will continue to be an indispensable requirement," the senior official said.
Stakeholders were, however, told that professional development, though necessary, was not a sufficient condition on its own to make the kind of changes that were necessary.?? And, Mr. King stressed: "Teacher training and professionalism need to be complemented by an environment conducive to change. Contextual issues related to effective leadership have to be discussed and addressed through intellectual discourse. ??Solutions must reflect a collective response if principals and teachers are to truly feel empowered."
Educators, teachers and technical staff heard that it was for this reason that the Ministry had created opportunities for them to be part of the decision-making process. "Ultimately, empowerment is competency-based and will be determined by the extent of your performance and the relationship which you establish with your staff and students… this is why those who lead and manage our education system must perform their tasks with the highest level of professionalism and efficiency so that maximum outcomes are achieved.
"You must appreciate that leadership and empowerment require a personal response to the varying un-predictable demands of the school and classroom through reflection and informed decision-making. We accept that as a strategy to boost economic development, educational investment has no equal, education is not one of the priorities of this Government; education is the priority," he stressed.
The meeting was also told that teacher quality was intimately related to quality learning and that Government was working to improve this aspect, through accelerated and professional development programmes at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College and at central Ministry. "To safeguard our investment, greater accountability will be expected through teacher evaluation and self-efficacy," the Acting CEO indicated, and he cautioned colleagues that without introspection all that would be achieved at the consultation would "come to nought".
Mr. King maintained: "As leaders and agents of change, let us begin to remove from our communities selfishness, greed, hatred and conflict and replace these with love, care, peace and interest in each other."
Meanwhile, President of the BUT, Karen Best, told participants that at the end of the workshop, Barbados was expected to produce a document outlining how educators here viewed the establishment of a teaching council, academic standards and teacher performance standards. She said the information would be presented to the Ministry of Education and, ultimately, to the CARICOM task force.
Ms. Best said: "So at the end of the day, what we are looking for is to see how throughout the region we can standardise what is happening. I’m sure that some of you know that if you leave here to teach in another territory, there are some problems that you will encounter, because we need to harmonise our training ang our entry qualifications."