Minister of Education and Human
Resource Development, Ronald Jones,
greeting Programme Assistant with
the World Bank, Mary Dowling
(A. Miller/BGIS)

A progress report on the $400M Education Sector Enhancement Programme (EDUTECH), implemented in 2000, was today given to World Bank officials by this island’s Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones.

Addressing the Bank’s Regional Learning Event on Improving Teaching and Learning Outcomes with Information Communication Technology (ICT) As A Cross Cutting Theme, at the Accra Beach Hotel, the Minister told delegates that in 1998, when Barbados approached two development agencies to sponsor a comprehensive education reform programme, it was met with criticism.

He said:?? "Many thought it impracticable, impossible and most improbable that this small, virtually unknown Caribbean island would first, obtain the approval from the developing agencies to finance this initiative and second, would be able to successfully implement an over BB$400 million dollar education programme focusing on curriculum reform, teacher professional development, technology infusion and school infrastructure upgrade."

Noting that he was pleased, however, to report on the programme, Mr. Jones said that 56 of the 77 schools, or 73 per cent of Barbadian schools, included in the restructured Education Sector Enhancement Programme, had been completed. He added that another 38 primary schools had been provided with enhanced security to one or two rooms to aid in the installation and storage of equipment, while design work had commenced at another 16 primary schools "to facilitate upgrade for improved teaching and learning and because of the infusion of integration of ICTs within education".

It was explained too that high-speed Internet connectivity, or ADSL connectivity had been provided to all schools during the course of implementation and that the Ministry was currently in the process of a comprehensive upgrade, moving all schools to either Metro E or Wireless Solutions.

Acknowledging that the Ministry had to be constantly tracking better solutions; wider or greater band widths, Mr. Jones noted that nearly 6,000 computers had been delivered to schools, with "practically every Education Officer, Principal and teacher allocated a laptop for administrative and pedagogical use". And, he urged World Bank officials and workshop participants to tour some of these schools, where the technology was fully integrated and utilised.

The Education Minister further disclosed that through Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, the Education Ministry and a number of private institutions, approximately 3,000 teachers had received training in learner-centred curriculum, technology mastery and integration of ICT into the curriculum. However, he cautioned that in the next four or five years most of those teachers would be retired and the Ministry would have "to start literally all over again".??

Mr. Jones explained: "That is the reality, but it is a continuous process and we work with private sector partners, the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College and other institutions to ensure that as new teachers come into the system that they benefit from the technology mastery, not only understanding the software that they are using, but also how to infuse, how to integrate, how to manipulate the technology to make learning at the level of the classroom more effective. And, even though it is comfortable to still have the chalk and talk, the inclusion of the white board, video camera, and the various technologies that you can use to really make it dynamic for student learning must be present in the classroom.

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