Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, addressing participants of the workshop and other Ministry officials at the opening ceremony. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??

Over 80 teachers, who gathered at the Deighton Griffith Secondary School today for the inaugural Summer Institute on Special Education for Teachers, are expected to help students with academic challenges progress towards higher levels of achievement.

This was indicated today by Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, as he addressed the opening of the two-week workshop being held by the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), in association with the Ministry and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF).

Acknowledging that it represented another effort at assisting students with learning disabilities and deficits, Minister Jones said: "We have had incursions in the area of special education [via] Erdiston Teachers’ Training College’s one-year certificate course and we will see how this Summer Institute can link into that certificate in special needs education. And some years ago we had the Mount St. Vincent University out of Canada working with teachers here in the Bachelor’s [programme]."

The Minister pointed out that the collaborative effort of the stakeholders was important to avoid more of our children falling "through the proverbial cracks".?? He stressed: "We cannot continue to see such a major segment of our young population who will become part of our adult population suffering as a result of us as teachers, as policy makers and as technocrats not understanding what it is that affects them, either at the lower end of the scale or for that matter at the higher end of the scale."

Stating that assumptions tend to be made about those who were referred to as high fliers and above average, the Education Minister said: "Sometimes, we don’t look at those students who tend to excel quite rapidly in our school system moving from the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination, to CXC and to CAPE.

We tend to focus a lot more on those students who are at the lower end of the pole without truly understanding that we have to look across the entire spectrum of student learning, student competency and student ability. "

Urging teachers to "look across that spectrum", the former teacher said "…Sing that song for our children, particularly those who are in real need so that they too can self actualise, can build self-esteem and can be drawn to the centre of education… the centre of national development… and the centre of their own particular families’ lives."

Meanwhile, President of the BUT, Karen Best, implored the teachers to see the training as "the beginning of making a difference in special needs education". She said: "Many of you would know that there is a dearth. Our teachers need to be trained in how to deal with children with special needs from the ones who are challenged to the difficult ones."

Emphasising that they were part of the process, she asked that they show commitment to the course since there was potential for it to be accredited by the Ministry of Education.

By the end of the workshop on Friday July 27, it is expected that the teachers would have been given the appropriate tools to be used effectively in identifying exceptional students in the regular classroom; to help identify teaching and learning strategies; and to effectively deal with the needs of all students.


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