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Two hundred teachers from Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago are currently engaged in training to enhance their digital skills in education to better respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 environment and reach their charges.

The online training, which officially started today, is but one part of an initiative entitled: Teacher Training on Digital Education and Distance Learning Pedagogies in the Caribbean, jointly pioneered by both countries and facilitated and funded by Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Finland, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

While this aspect will be conducted during this school term only, the entire project is expected to last until May 2022. The initiative will also see teachers tasked with developing a project for their schools between January and March next year and, at its completion, a certificate will be presented to teachers. Credits will also be offered for each of the five modules, as well as the project.

According to Senior Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Technical and Vocational Training, Fernando Carter, the credits will also prove beneficial to teachers wanting to further their studies at European universities.

In explaining the significance of the training in the COVID-19 environment, Mr. Carter reminded participants that thousands of teachers and students in both countries had been adversely affected and “some adaptation was necessary to sustain quality teaching and learning”.

He noted the course was the result of experiences, research and collaboration among numerous entities over the last year and added that Barbados pursued basic training in digital pedagogy in September 2020.

Elaborating, he said: “The survey feedback from the 120 participants at the end of that exercise was very useful. Furthermore, we extracted more qualitative data from the focus group from those teachers earlier this year. To ensure the training needs of primary [school] teachers in both countries were adequately catered to, a survey was commissioned.

“The Education Ministry of Trinidad and Tobago volunteered an existing survey which was modified by the IDB and the Barbados Education Ministry and it was administered to primary school teachers in both countries. Information gathered from all the above factored heavily in the nature of this teacher training as outlined by the Tampere University of Applied Science.”

While commending the partnership, the Senior Education Officer said it boded well for regional cooperation and interagency collaboration and he expressed the hope that the training would encourage teachers to build on their creativity and make them more confident in their craft and better equipped to succeed.

Meanwhile, Finland’s Ambassador to the Caribbean, Pertti Ikonen, in acknowledging the partnership, noted that his country’s education system was “efficient”.

Pointing out that teachers there were highly trained through a mandatory Masters’ degree, he stressed: “Teachers are motivated through the autonomy given to them to plan their own teaching and resourcing. A big part of each teacher’s education is learning how to tailor teaching to different kind of learners.

“Teaching, as an occupation, is highly ranked in Finland. They are well paid and their social status is comparable with the medical doctors and lawyers. Finland is ranked as the most advanced user of public digital services in the European Union and this is why we are here today,” he stated.


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