Discussions at the two day annual meeting centred on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education and the effectiveness of collective action in overcoming the challenges. The need to strengthen the OECS education system and transform it to make it more relevant to our sustainable development was also underscored. The major highlight of the meeting was deliberation on the draft OECS Declaration on Education 2022, which was endorsed by the OECS Ministers. This declaration foregrounds lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and promotes a collective vision of education across Member States. Furtherstill, it spotlights the required interventions to transition the state of the education sector from vulnerable to resilient, in keeping with the theme of the meeting.
In observance of the OECS Commission's commitment to empower the youth of the Eastern Caribbean, the meeting was associated with a youth debate on February 10, 2022 giving the youth an active voice to address issues in education. Youth recommendations from the debate were presented at COM:Edu via their elocutionist Ashfred Norris of Dominica. One key takeaway from his presentation was that if we are to overcome our issue of digital literacy we must adopt more purposive training methods and that training needs to occur across the board for teachers, students and parents alike.
Additionally, Serena Dowes of Dominica was the youth featured speaker delivering an address entitled: "A Child's Perspective on Education in Extraordinary Times:From Vulnerability to Resilience". Her submission of youth recommendations to the OECS Ministers included:
- Paying closer attention to the less privileged students who are without access to devices or internet connectivity;
- Focussing on the slow learners and creating programmes to suit their learning needs during online learning; and
- Creating and implementing training programmes for parents who are not too familiar with the new technology and online learning so that they can be empowered to assist their children.
A summary of the other key decisions is presented below.
Selected Key Decisions:
Ministers agreed to:
- Recommend a thorough review of the teacher education programmes of the OECS to determine the required interventions;
- Support the OECS to mobilise resources for the development of a New Regional Education Sector Strategy;
- Endorse an intersectoral approach to childhood intervention in the OECS that pools resources and efforts across sectors of education, health, social and youth development to address the needs of the most vulnerable and at-risk learners;
- Commit to strengthening systems within MOEs to improve access to data;
- Endorse the establishment of a technical working group to explore and conceptualize a regional approach to information management solutions; and
- Endorse the OECS Declaration on Education.
The OECS Education Sector Strategy (OESS) which sets out the priorities for the period 2012 – 2026 determines the focus of regional education approaches and initiatives and contributes to national education initiatives as well. The imperatives and cross-cutting themes of the OESS seek to respond to major evidence-based needs with a view to improving the overall education systems of the OECS and the ultimate aim of increasing student achievement across the OECS. The strategy was endorsed by The Council of Ministers: Education (COM:Edu) in 2011.
The COM:Edu meeting is typically a two-day face-to-face event that allows for engaging and intense discussions, with participation from Development Partners and other stakeholders. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 7th COM: Edu meeting was being convened virtually.