Taking STEPs towards transforming teaching and learning in Barbados' schools

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Despite significant investments by governments in the Caribbean, student achievement at the end of basic education is still lagging behind expected levels. This could change in Barbados, through the School Teacher Effectiveness Plan (STEPs), an initiative funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Government of Barbados.

STEPs, a critical component of a wider CDB-funded Education Sector Enhancement Project, aims to transform learning and teaching in schools. It was launched on October 10, with a ceremony at the Erdiston Teachers’ College.

CDB’s Division Chief in the Social Sector Division, Deidre Clarendon, told the audience that the initiative now being implemented in Barbados could have a positive impact on other countries in the Region.

This represents a watershed in school reform in Barbados and we anticipate that within the context of regional cooperation and integration, other countries will benefit from this bold initiative which has the potential to transform the culture of teaching and learning in schools,” said Clarendon. 

The concept of STEPs was framed within the context of identifying models and tools to guide teachers towards being more effective. This comes at a time when countries in the Region have been investing approximately 6 percent of GDP and, in some cases, as much as 20 percent of their recurrent budget on human resource development. Yet optimal achievement eludes a significant proportion of every cohort of learners when they complete basic education. 

Research examining the teaching of Mathematics in Barbados and the OECS, commissioned by CDB in 2015, indicated that:

  • teachers demonstrated considerable deficits in effective pedagogy;
  • there was an absence of instructional planning; and
  • the quality of the learning environment in classrooms was below the standards defined in teacher education programmes.

The CDB Division Chief noted that STEPs is one of the ways in which the Bank was investing in teacher training to improve learning outcomes.

We all recognize the need to extend the focus on teacher development beyond the traditional emphasis on teacher training to supporting the application of effective pedagogy in the classroom.  This reflects a paradigm shift in education and training, which is necessary if the education system is to be reconfigured to meet the needs of all learners,” said Clarendon.

The Division Chief said the focus on teacher effectiveness changes the traditional focus from professional development to professional practice.

The shift in the discourse from the concept of highly qualified to highly effective teachers resonates with all of us as practitioners, researchers or even development bankers, as we seek to enhance the teaching and learning dynamic,” said Clarendon.

The Education Sector Enhancement Project is a collaboration between CDB and Government of Barbados. The Bank, in 2011, approved USD35 million which included support for the intervention, which was designed to assist with the achievement of improved quality and effectiveness of education at the primary and secondary levels. 

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