Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Kay McConney, addressing Harrison College’s virtual Speech Day and Prize-Giving Ceremony recently. (FP)

Faculty and students of Harrison College (HC) have been told by Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Kay McConney, that “there is no education like adversity”, a quote which the Minister shared from Benjamin Disraeli.

Addressing the school’s Virtual Speech Day and Prize-Giving Ceremony, earlier this month, she stressed the last two years had been “unknowing” and “untested” moments for that institution and Barbados generally, as the global health pandemic forced everyone to navigate the vagaries of rapid and unprecedented change in the educational environment.

Speaking to the event’s theme, Perseverance in Adversity, Ms. McConney said: “Having not experienced this scale of disruption before, every one of us has had to grapple, at some level, with insecurities of not knowing, not feeling in control, and not being able to predict what next.” 

While acknowledging that she was proud of the collective resilience shown by both the country and the educational community, the Education Minister also stressed shesaw the experience of the 2020-2022 as likely to create a positive shift in the educational system and towards a more empowered future for students and educators.

And, she called on students to pause and reflect appreciatively on their journey in resilience, saying: “It’s a shift we must embrace as the world in education will not be shifting back.” 

She further explained to online viewers that it could possibly generate an eruption of creativity and innovation in the educational system that would transform “the way we teach; the way we learn; what we teach; how we assess performance of students and educators; how we resourcefully engage technology; and how we enable collaboration locally and with international partners to positively impact student outcomes, teaching standards and the quality of instruction”.

In addition to being congratulated for its remarkable results over the last two years, Harrison College was lauded by the Minister for its innovative homegrown programmes of Don’t Shout. Reach Out, for the sixth formers, and its Mental Wellness Minute during online assembly.

Harrison College students Luke Thompson and Haille Skinner display their prizes for CSEC passes. Thompson received 6 CSEC Grade 1 passes at General Proficiency in 2020 and an award for Top Performer in CAPE Unit 1, 2021 while Skinner received 9 CSEC Grade 1 passes at General Proficiency and 3 Grade 1 passes at CAPE Unit 1. (GP)

Ms. McConney assured the gathering of her Ministry’s support, and noted the school’s resilience had been marked by its propensity to support and help each other from within – “being your brother’s and sister’s keeper”.

Highlighting some of the stories told to her about HC’s resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic and with online learning, she said: “I understand that some senior school students conducted their own online classes to help other students to fully understand specific concepts taught by the teacher. I am told that many teachers were accessible way past official closing time for the school day. Some of the stories that I have heard suggest that both students and staff have forged closer social bonds, built stronger educational relationships and are proudly exuding the traits of what it means to be a true Harrisonian.”

And, while the institution was encouraged to join the Ministry on the national journey towards educational reform, Ms. McConney remarked: “The emerging environment means that, in education, we must not just measure results but measure resilience; that we must not just trumpet the bright past of our educational institutions but herald an enlightened future for our entire educational system.”

Principal of Harrison College, Juanita Wade, speaking on the school’s results, said the institution recognised there were learning gaps that had to be filled as the students spent nearly two years engaged in online learning.

Adding that they had already set about trying to make up for the short fall, she stressed the students’ performances over the periods 2020 and 2021 were in most cases, just under their target of 100 per cent but it was what the school still considered to be “an excellent performance in any circumstances at this level”.          

Ms. Wade congratulated teachers and students for their efforts and for “persevering in the face of adversity”. She also acknowledged that despite the recent examinations that created protests across the region, her charges had realised “much improved performances” and the school had emerged with 13 Barbados Government Scholarships and 43 Exhibitions, combined results for 2020 and 2021.

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