The new cohort of students pursuing studies at the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College (ETTC) have been encouraged to embrace innovation, while striving to be the positive change in the lives of those they encounter in the classroom.
Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, shared this advice while delivering the feature address at the college’s virtual orientation ceremony, on Friday.
Acknowledging teachers as “nation builders”, she urged her audience to continuously seek new and creative teaching methods, beyond what they would be taught during their course of study.
She indicated this was critical, in light of the difficulties brought about over the last 18 months by the COVID-19 pandemic
“You had to be creative and to learn new ways of leading and delivering instruction in the emergency. You had to find ways of bridging the digital divide so that all students could benefit from online instruction. No one was prepared for this. You weathered the storm and our country will be better for your service. We will do all that is necessary to make your work as safe as possible. We will continue to aim to provide the resources within our economic constraints, to achieve this end,” Minister Bradshaw assured.
Reiterating the need for educational reform in Barbados, she also outlined some of the ways which the authorities have set about to make this a reality.
Ms. Bradshaw noted this move would go beyond replacing the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination, as the transitional tool from primary to secondary school.
She pointed out that emphasis was being placed on the national curriculum “to make it relevant to the emerging technological and global trends and the transformational needs of this country”.
To this end, she said Government had spent almost three million dollars on a coding and robotics programme, spearheaded by the ETTC, in preparation for the introduction of this subject area in schools.
So far, over 200 persons have undergone the training, with some teachers set to become certified instructors in the VEX educational robotics system.
“More importantly, we will reform the way we teach and assess our children. We will direct our learners along a path that encourages and allows them to take responsibility for their learning and their actions, to display their strengths and thus make the best use of their talents,” the Minister added, noting that this was in keeping with the fourth Sustainable Development Goal, which speaks to a quality education.
Ms. Bradshaw further noted that teachers also played a role in helping to shape the lives of students beyond academics, stating: “Part of our vision for education is that every child develops an active social conscience as well as the global competencies of investigating the world, recognising different perspectives, communicating ideas and taking action to make a difference.
“You must help them grow into good citizens with values of tolerance, empathy and respect. Now, more than ever, our schools must play a major role in the development of these skills and reinforce those values which we hold dear and which are important if we are to become a moral and caring society,” the Education Minister urged.
Meanwhile, Acting Principal at the ETTC, Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw, also shared similar sentiments to the Minister about the need to adopt new ways of teaching.
“There is a need to shift focus within the classrooms of our schools from memorisation and regurgitation, to one that engenders critical thinking, problem solving and development of habits of mind, such as perseverance. We must value the philosophy that teaching goes beyond preparing students for examinations.”
She also reiterated the college’s commitment to ensuring that students were equipped with the necessary tools to become great educators, noting that “great teachers and great educational leaders can foster development in all spheres and assist with moving the country on a path towards positive growth.
“You are not here to be average; you are here to learn how to be great. Our country is depending on it,” Dr. Archer-Bradshaw said.