EDUCATIONAL REFORM IN
Background to the OECS
The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) came into existence on June 18, 1981 when seven Caribbean countriesAntigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Christopher-Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and The Grenadinessigned the Treaty of Basseterre. In signing the Treaty, to which the British Virgin Islands subsequently acceded, the Governments of these islands declared that they were inspired by a common desire to strengthen the links between themselves by uniting their efforts and resources and establishing and strengthening common institutions which could serve to increase their bargaining power as regards third countries or groups of third countries.
The member states of the OECS increased functional cooperation among themselves with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Barbados in 1982, which was designed to promote mutual assistance in matters such as threats to national security, national emergencies, prevention of smuggling, search and rescue, fisheries protection and customs, and excise control by establishing a Sports Desk at the OECS Secretariat in St. Lucia to organize sports events in the sub-region and to provide technical assistance and equipment to national associations; by establishing the Eastern Caribbean Drug Service to reduce the cost of essential pharmaceuticals through bulk purchasing; and by initiating the Eastern Caribbean Investment Promotion Service which is designed to seek and promote investment in the countries of the OECS as a whole.
The Central Authority of the OECS is composed of the Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers of the member states and meets periodically under the direction of a Chairman whom they elect on a rotating basis. The Authority of the OECS takes decisions related to the future direction of the Organization and oversees the operations of the Central Secretariat in Castries and the other organs of the Secretariat, such as the Economic Affairs Secretariat and the Fisheries Unit, which are located in Antigua and St. Vincent, respectively. The Secretariat, which is headed by a Director-General, is the executive area of the OECS and works to promote functional cooperation among member states by providing them with common services and facilitating meetings of officials of the member states on matters of mutual interest.
The member states of the OECS are also members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which is a group of member states of the Commonwealth Caribbean. CARICOM preceded the formation of the OECS and has as its objectives the promotion of functional cooperation and the fostering of regional unity. The member states of the OECS have individual membership within CARICOM, but they are increasingly sharing a common position in meetings of the regional forum.
The OECS countries are defined by a number of common features, the first of which is their geographical proximity. The islands of the OECS, which all lie between 12 degrees and 18 degrees North Latitude and 61 degrees and 63 degrees West Longitude, form almost a natural crescent in the Caribbean Sea beginning with the Virgin Islands in the north (which are east of Puerto Rico) and ending with Grenada in the south (which is northwest of Trinidad and Tobago). All of the islands are connected by air transportation services and one can fly to all of them within a day.
The second is their relatively small size. Dominica is the largest of the islands with an area of approximately 305 square miles, while Montserrat is the smallest with an area of approximately 39.5 squares miles. The populations of the OECS countries are not very large either. The total population of the sub-region is approximately 550,000 inhabitants. St. Lucia is the most populated island with approximately 145,000 people, while the population of Montserrat is 12,000.
The third common feature of the member states of the OECS is the history they share with other countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean, which is similar to the history of the non-English speaking Caribbean and Latin America. Like the rest of the Caribbean, many of the OECS countries had indigenous Amerindian populations of Caribs and Arawaks that were virtually wiped out within a century of the Europeans arrival in the Caribbean towards the end of the fifteenth century. After the colonization of the islands by the Europeans, the demand for sugar production led to the whole-scale importation of Africans as slaves in an unprecedented social and economic experiment, in which a minority of whites kept the majority in subjugation through a variety of means.
By the eighteenth century the islands of the OECS were very important in European geopolitics-politics, for as Eric Williams points out in his book From Columbus to Castro, Nevis in the late eighteenth century was more important in the commercial firmament than New York, Antigua surpassed the Carolinas and Montserrat rated higher than Pennsylvania. Following the abolition of slavery in 1834, the labor supply problem for the sugar plantations was not as acute in the islands constituting the OECS as in other parts of the Caribbean, and consequently there was no large-scale importation of indentured laborers from China or India in the late nineteenth century. The abolition of slavery led to the development of a peasantry and the growth of an urban artisan class. At the same time the colored section of the population became more assertive and in some islands began to clamor for an end to direct rule from Britain and the introduction of representative government.
A fourth common feature of the member states is that they all have strong island identities that are rooted in their history and in their cultural practices. These island identities give each island a distinct personality and should not necessarily be seen as a barrier to collaboration and cooperation. Throughout the history of these islands there has been migration from one island to another and persons born in one island have risen to positions of prominence on others.
Universal adult suffrage was introduced in most of the islands of the OECS in the 1950s and brought with it the establishment of island governments of limited authority that were based on the support of organized labor. In 1958 all the OECS member states, with the exception of the British Virgin Islands, became part of the West Indies federation. This, however, was not the member states first experience with a federation since they had been part of the Federations of the Windward and Leeward Islands under colonial arrangements since the late nineteenth century.
Antigua and Barbuda, St. Christopher-Nevis and Anguilla, and for a period Dominica, constituted the Federation of the Leeward Islands while St. Lucia, St. Vincent and The Grenadines and subsequently Dominica constituted the Federation of the Windward Islands. After the West Indies Federation fell apart in 1962 there was some talk of a federation of Barbados and the Leeward and Windward Islands. Barbados received its independence in 1966 and all of the islands of the OECS, with the exception of the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat, which even today are still colonies of Britain, received Associated Statehood in 1967.
Under this arrangement the islands were granted full internal self-government while Britain retained responsibility for their defense and external affairs. Associated Statehood was in reality a form of preparation for Independence that came to the OECS islands between 1974 and 1981 with Grenada being the first to become independent and Antigua the last.
Because of their similar histories and their long association, the members of the OECS, like the rest of the Commonwealth Caribbean with the possible exception of Guyana, have evolved systems of government and of bureaucratic organization which bear some relationship to the Westminster system of government. Similarly, the orientation of their formal education systems has been British and there are some social analysts who are of the view that when the Caribbean developed its own system of examinations for students leaving secondary school, the distinction between the Basic Proficiency Level and the General Proficiency Level was a reflection of the distinction then existing in Britain between the Certificate of Secondary Education and the Ordinary Level Certificate.
In spite of their common history, there are some differences among the member states of the OECS that are important in understanding the sub-region. One of these differences is religious. Whereas Protestant denominations of British origin, such as Anglicanism and Methodism, are predominant in the more northern islands of Antigua, Montserrat, St. Christopher-Nevis, and the British Virgin Islands, the influence of the Roman Catholic Church has been more pronounced in the more southern islands, which changed hands between the British and French during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and this influence has extended to matters both spiritual and temporal.
A second difference is linguistic. In all of the islands a Creole language is spoken, which for a number of people is their mother tongue. While in the Leeward Islands the Creole is English-based, in the Windward Islands of Dominica, St. Lucia and to a lesser extent Grenada, the Creole is French-based. This linguistic difference, though seemingly insignificant, should not be taken lightly as it has implications for education in a country where English is both the official language and the medium of instruction.
The third difference between the islands of the OECS is related to their economic life, and here again distinctions can be made between the Leeward and Windward Islands. Though the islands emerged from the plantation system following the emancipation of their slaves, the Leeward Islands have for the most part moved away from a reliance on agriculture as their main economic activity and are more service-oriented economies than those of the Windward Islands. Among the Windward Islands, St. Lucia is the one that appears to have diversified its economy to a larger extent than the others from an overdependence on agriculture. In the islands of Dominica, St. Vincent and Grenada, bananas are the major foreign exchange earner and the main market is the United Kingdom, to which the islands sell their fruit under a preferential arrangement. The introduction of a single market in Europe, therefore, has profound economic implications for the Windward Islands whose production of bananas will have to become more internationally competitive if their banana industries are to continue to be a major source of export earnings.
Education Reform in the OECS
It is generally believed in the OECS, as in many other parts of the world, that the prospects for economic prosperity on a sustained basis hinges significantly upon the performance of the knowledge sector. It is perceived that the most formidable aspect of the development challenge is to define and actively and effectively pursue a suitable mix of formal and non-formal basic, technical and vocational education that can be fashioned into a relevant cohesive, comprehensive Human Resource Development System. It is expected that such a system would allow for appropriate cultural orientation, flexible maneuvering, and adaptability in order to respond to the vagaries and dynamics of modern living.
The actual situation, however, is that whereas almost every child in the sub-region has access to primary schooling and has a high probability of completing the primary cycle, schooling at this level is of variable quality. A significantly reduced percentage of students gain access to secondary schools (currently about 50%) and a depressingly smaller percentage gain access to higher education (as low as 2%). This ratio is about eight times smaller than observed tertiary level ratios in developing countries of similar income levels. Data on the education of the labor force based on the 1980/81 population census showed that in all OECS countries more than 80% of the adult population had six or more years of formal education. The population of St. Kitts had the highest proportion with 92.3% of people over 15-years-old having six or more years of formal schooling. But there is also evidence that the communication and numerical skills of these persons are generally unacceptably low. At the secondary level St. Kitts again led the way with over 70% of the labor force having some secondary education, but for most of these countries the figure ranged between 12 and 14%. At the tertiary level only 0.4 to 0.7% of the labor force had any tertiary level training.
The net result is that the output of the system is deemed to be inadequate to meet the demands of a modern technological environment. Given the current output gap and the time lag that is required to rectify these imbalances, and given the expected increase in demand for well-educated personnel to function in these economies, it is felt that the time for action cannot be postponed.
It has become apparent that whereas the major thrusts of the various education systems of the OECS traditionally focus on the formal and more specifically the primary and secondary levels, the development of appropriate systematic linkages with education outside the formal system is critical to the effective development of the formal system itself. It is therefore perceived that an appropriate education system must be characterized by structures and policies that provide and facilitate various adult and continuing learning and training mechanisms, including loop-back mechanisms for those who failed to obtain suitable basic education qualifications in the earlier stages of life.
Despite the contention that more resources are required to support the education sector, the system is currently maintained at an extremely high cost to these small societies, not necessarily in absolute terms but surely in relative terms. Between 14 and 26% of all joint recurrent expenditure in the OECS is spent on education. The average is 16% and amounted to over EC$220m in 1992.
In addition, parents and guardians reel under the burden of providing textbooks, uniforms, meals, transport, and various paraphernalia such as school bags and stationery for the 150,000 students enrolled at the primary and secondary levels in the subregion. The private cost is estimated minimally at about $106m, roughly 50% of overall government recurrent expenditure.
These figures do not, however, include capital costs such as amortization of school buildings, land costs, furniture, and other capital equipment. Nor do these figures include external assistance from the various agencies and partners operating in the region. According to the World Bank study Access, Quality and Efficiency in Caribbean Education (1992, 199-211), approximately US$31.6m (EC$85.2m) in grant funds through agency-aided education projects were either ongoing or in the pipeline for the six independent countries of the OECS for the period 1988-96. This amount covered only national projects and did not include regional or sub-regional projects administered through, for example, the OECS Secretariat or CARICOM agencies.
The matter of reforming education in the OECS to address the issues of access, quality, relevance, flexibility, and efficiency has been a matter of major concern for some time. The education systems of all of these countries have been modeled on an old British system with at least two disadvantages to the sub-region. The first is that these countries inherited the problems of British education with its elitist focus, and the second is that the more acceptable education features of a British industrial society could not be effectively transferred into the struggling, undeveloped, and predominantly primary producing economies of the subregion. The real efforts to revisit the inherited education systems came with changes in political status in the 1960s and the harsh realities of having to cope as independent states from the 1970s in a brutally competitive world.
An examination of recent national educational plans and the pronouncements of the various political leaders throughout the subregion show clearly that the issues of access, quality, flexibility and relevance were seen and continued to be seen as key reform matters. But as Fergus (1991) pointed out, one of the major characteristics linked to smallness in the OECS countries is intellectual and financial dependence in spite of national flags and anthems. This, Fergus argued, puts a brake on radical curriculum reform and delays the process of rooting education content in Caribbean culture. The problem is not only related to content but more insidiously is tied to objectives, perspectives, methods, structures and evaluation strategies indeed to the entire mindset associated with the system.
The issue of smallness also forces a timidity upon the managers of the system. The more influential actors and stakeholders (usually including educational personnel themselves) are generally intensely concerned with the international transfer value of training and certification. In the absence of relevant research and assessment procedures, it is extremely difficult for these countries to generate and defend strategies and policies of their own with respect to school improvement initiatives. These factors further intensify the dependence on metropolitan countries for ideas, values and approaches. The lack of resources in national Ministries makes it difficult for nationals to remain current with the various ideas generated in education in other parts of the world and generally place these territories in the position where they are energetically trying to pursue strategies that are on the way out or have already been discarded or discredited in the countries of origin.
Despite the dominant British, and in recent times North American influences on Caribbean education systems, the region can point to an extended period of internal educational unrest and reform dating back to early post-emancipation times. Over the last few years these territories have been affected by several significant international, regional and national initiatives in education. These include the UNESCO Major Project in Latin America and the Caribbean, the work of the World Conference in Education in Thailand in 1990, regional efforts such as the Regional Strategy for Technical Vocational Education and training by CARICOM (1990), a Kingston Consultation on the future of Education in the Commonwealth Caribbean (1989), reform efforts in examinations at the secondary level through the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), the work of the CARICOM Advisory Task force on Technical Vocational Education and Training, Curriculum Development efforts such as the UWI/USAID Primary Education Project (1980-85), and numerous consultations and task force reports at the national level.
Many of these initiatives, however, were not sufficiently coordinated at either the national or regional level to be effective and sustainable over time. In many instances countries acted in almost complete isolation from neighboring states, depriving each other of the benefits of lessons learned in the implementation process. Equally important was the waste of scarce resources through needless duplication or through the pursuit of inappropriate priorities. The numerous uncoordinated, project-driven initiatives and the pressures exerted by multilateral, bilateral, and non-governmental agencies severely overloaded the capacities of the small ministries of education within the OECS. These combined factors tended to create a feeling of cynicism on the part of ministry staff towards new initiatives. Indeed many recent initiatives were viewed by education personnel as simply part of the inexorable pendulum swing of education history, moving from one extreme to the other at the whims and fancies of influential external agencies or interest groups within academic communicates in and outside of the region.
Given the issues and problems outlined above, in addition to the widespread perception among nationals of the sub-region that standards in education in the subregion were actually falling, tremendous pressure was constantly exerted on Governments, particularly on the Ministries of Education, to review the education systems. It is against this background that Ministers of Education of the OECS, who were anxious for urgent action but determined to maximize scarce resources though functional cooperation in the sub-region, decided at their Fourth Annual Meeting held in Tortola in October 1990 to embark on a long-term collaborative comprehensive OECS Education Reform Strategy.
A group of OECS education professionals, subsequently referred to as the Education Reform Working Group, under the chairmanship of Professor Errol Miller of the University of the West Indies, was assigned the task of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the system to identify issues and problems, and to develop a comprehensive strategy for the reform effort.
The Education Reform Working Group1 put together a body of recommendations now popularly referred to as the OECS Education Reform Strategy (OERS).2 These recommendations were generated through analysis of the major political, economic, social, demographic, and cultural imperatives currently affecting and likely to affect the sub-region in the foreseeable future, and by matching these against past and current experiences in the sub-region. The Working Group also commissioned state-of-the-art reviews on several aspects of education (primary, secondary, tertiary, technical/vocational, educational management, OECS migration and demographic patterns) in order to benefit from the best available knowledge and practice relevant to the operation of education systems.
The Reform Strategy
The Education Reform Strategy outlined here is the product of the Working Groups analysis of education in the subregion, the opinions expressed in national consultations, the papers presented at the subregional consultation, and linkage of these with the developmental imperatives shaping the subregion. This Education Reform Strategy was approved by the Ministers of Education of the OECS at their Meeting on October 9-10, 1991 in Dominica.
A. Strategies for Harmonizing the Education Systems of the OECS
The reforms noted here are those that are general to the entire education system and are not restricted to any one level or aspect.
Harmonize the education systems of the subregion by:
Create a common legal framework for education within the subregion.
Kenny Anthonys study of the legal framework of education in the OECS has revealed a number of deficiencies that make education systems in member states vulnerable to litigation. Countries of the OECS all share a common judicial system, so common legislation, which would promote the harmonization of their education systems, is both possible and feasible. Furthermore, a centralized drafting of the appropriate legislation would enable some member countries to overcome the limitations usually faced while drafting legislation.
Promote environmental education at both the primary and secondary levels.
This would best be done through the Infusion Method where information about the environment and attitudes towards it are presented through materials incorporated into several subjects in the curriculum.
Strengthen foreign language and intercultural learning across all levels of education in the subregion.
Foreign language learning constitutes one of the educational weaknesses in the Commonwealth Caribbean, including the OECS subregion. The same holds true of learning about other cultures. The proposal here is that school systems in the OECS adopt a foreign language policy that seeks, by the year 2010, to make at least 90% of students at the end of secondary school fluent in at least one foreign language commonly spoken in the region, and at least half the students fluent in two languages other than English.
Establish a central mechanism for curriculum development.
In developing creativity, imagination, and the capacity for problem solving, education systems in the OECS will have to effect major curriculum reforms and will have to develop an enhanced capability to evaluate student performance. What is proposed is a pooling of resources and the development of subregional subject committees similar to those used by the Caribbean Examinations Council to revise syllabi, to draft syllabi in new subject areas such as those proposed for the reform of secondary education, and to develop appropriate instruments to assess student performance.
Review the recommendations of the OECS/CIDA Primary Textbook Feasibility Study with a view to implement them and carry out a similar feasibility study of textbooks used in secondary schools.
Commission a study to determine the worthiness of establishing a centralized unit to ensure the appropriate use of the media and new technologies for educational purposes.
Initiate an exercise designed to develop an explicit philosophy of education for the subregion.
The main components of this exercise would be:
B. Strategies for Reforming Early Childhood Education
The major objectives of the strategies for the reform of early childhood education (i.e., education of children aged three to five years) are:
Continue to promote and facilitate private initiative and philanthropic contributions as the major sources for the creation of preschools.
Introduce appropriate legislation and administrative guidelines to ensure effective regulation of the establishment and operation of preschools.
Permit the establishment of preschool departments within both primary and secondary schools where these schools are underutilized.
Promote awareness programs for parents and other care givers in the home.
Provide government assistance for the following:
C. Strategies for Reforming Primary Education
Since countries of the OECS have developed self-sustaining systems of primary education that are reasonably efficient, the focus of the strategies is the provision of capital and developmental inputs that would have maximum impact on the quality of education while minimizing recurrent costs.
Modernize the primary school plant.
Improve the quality of primary education by:
Democratize the management of primary schools.
To achieve democratization, a management board should be established for each primary school. Such a board would be made up of representatives nominated by parents, teachers, churches, past students, and community members. The board, which would be linked to the National Education Advisory Council, would be responsible to the Ministry for the day-to-day management of the school and would be mandated to foster closer links between the school, the homes, and the community it serves.
Establish support services in respect of children with special needs.
These support services would include screening and testing for disabilities, the establishment of special education units in some primary schools, and periodic surveys to determine the incidence of various disabilities in the society. In addition, they would provide instructional needs for special education and social welfare of children in need.
Integrate the creative and fine arts into the teaching/learning process.
To stimulate creativity and imagination, students should be encouraged to explore concepts, ideas, and social situations through the medium of creative and fine arts.
Review the mechanism for the transfer of students from the primary to the secondary level.
D. Strategies for Reforming Secondary Education
Secondary education and schooling have a multifaceted character.
Taking into account this multifaceted character of secondary education, the approach adopted here is that education beyond the age of 11 or 12 should be related to the developmental process of the children. The assumption is made that in each chronological age group (cohort) there will be children at different developmental stages. These stages can be broadly defined as:
There are, however, two important qualifications to these assumptions:
Restructure the school system along the following lines:
Reconceptualize the secondary education program as follows:
Encourage innovation in the schools in respect to the following:
Improve the quality of secondary schooling by:
Strengthen support services:
Articulate secondary schooling with:
E. Strategies for Reforming Tertiary, Continuing and Adult Education
Given the variegated character of tertiary and adult education, it embraces a wide diversity of outcomes.
Continue the amalgamation and integration of small single-disciplined colleges into larger multidisciplinary institutions.
Increase tertiary education by expanding existing institutions and adding new institutions where necessary.
Rethink and reorganize Technical and Vocational Education (TVET) to produce a standardized system which functions as a partnership with the private sector and which is intimately integrated into the working world.
Facilitate and provide on-going professional training for educators in adult education, TVET and the formal tertiary system.
Mandate tertiary institutions to establish more intensive and extensive working relationships with the sectors, occupations and individuals they serve.
Revise existing legislation to give tertiary education a sound legal basis.
Restructure the governance of tertiary institutions to allow for greater autonomy and wider national representation, and require greater accountability.
Rationalize the existing programs in terms of their relevance, costs, demand, and maximal utilization of the available qualified teachers.
Encourage private and public sector initiatives in providing continuing education for adults through programs which are self-financing.
Articulate programs at the tertiary level with those at the University of the West Indies and other universities within the Caribbean region.
Upgrade the modes of delivery of tertiary education of students from poor homes, females and rural residents.
Ensure equity in the access to tertiary education of students from poor homes, females and rural residents.
Provide hostel accommodations for out-of-island students.
Create an Eastern Caribbean College Council under the aegis of the OECS Secretariat.
The Council would be authorized to:
F. Strategies for Reforming the Terms and Conditions of Service of Teachers
Improve the salaries of professionally qualified teachers.
Improve benefits to teachers by implementing health insurance and mortgage assistance schemes.
Improve the working conditions of teachers in the schools.
Expand teacher training to achieve 90% trained teachers at primary and secondary levels by the year 2002 by:
Enhance the status of the teaching profession by:
Establish a career path for teachers, for which the following have been proposed:
G. Strategies for Reforming the Management and Administration of the Education System
The management and administration of education within free, open and democratic societies should both reflect and advance the precepts and ideals of freedom and democracy. Accordingly, the management and administration of education should be characterized by:
Promote wider participation in the management of education by:
Provide adequate and appropriate training in management and administration for ministry and school.
Pool education development specialist resources in the OECS.
There is no territory that currently has development specialists covering all of the following areas: planning, curriculum development, measurement and evaluation, special education, education media and production, guidance and counseling, adult education, and project management. The proposal here is to pool the education development specialists by:
Establish independent bodies to award scholarships.
Attention is drawn to the highly personalized environment of small states leading to the problem of excessive political influence on personnel selection and training. It is recommended, therefore, that a broad-based selection committee for scholarship awards be established in the Ministry responsible for education. Such a committee would then set up appropriate strategies to ensure fairness in the allocation of awards.
Create an autonomous OECS human resource development institute.
This institute would be designed to constantly monitor human resource development in the subregion, produce decision-oriented research, conduct policy studies, carry out project and program evaluation, and promote innovative responses to perennial problems.
Review the existing organizational structure of Ministries.
The current rigid separation of administrative/financial and professional education functions in the organization of Ministries of Education has created numerous problems in the operations of Ministries and in the management of the education system.
H. Strategies for Reforming the Financing of Education
Redefine and restructure financial obligations of the stakeholders in the education system.
There should be some monitoring mechanism, established by law, to ensure that all partners are fulfilling their obligations.
Guarantee the education subvention and decentralize the control of spending.
The reform proposal here is that the financial regulations of Government should be revised to permit and guarantee the following:
Devise equitable bases for allocating funds to schools.
Strengthen the financial management capabilities of Ministries of Education and of schools and colleges.
Introduce cost recovery schemes for tertiary education and for specific Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
Provide incentives for private investment in education seeking to deliver services, produce materials and education software, and market education expertise.
Limit and control external borrowing for education.
External borrowing should only be resorted to in very specific circumstances.
I. Strategies for the Reform Process
To ensure the long-term success of the reforms by providing the following:
Accept the reform strategy as a whole.
The education reform strategy cannot be implemented all at once, yet the overall reform strategy needs to be adopted as a whole. While some aspects can be implemented almost immediately, others will take years before meaningful action can be taken. The proposal is that:
Mobilize the subregion for implementation.
The proposals are:
Establish an education reform council to coordinate, manage and monitor implementation.
The council should be named by and report to the Ministers of Education of the OECS. The OECS Secretariat staff directing the implementation of the reform strategy should be ex-officio members of the council. The CARICOM Secretariat, University of the West Indies, CDB, Carneid and CXC should be given observer status on the council. The mandate of the Council would be as follows:
Establish a reform unit staffed with professionals to support the education reform council.
Establish national priorities.
The eight countries of the OECS are at different stages of developments in their education systems in introducing various aspects of the reforms. This requires that each country assess itself within the comprehensive strategy in order to establish its own priorities. The following is proposed:
Commence implementation through the immediate development of some projects.
Action in the field is critical to the successful implementation of the reform strategy. It is important to start promptly and to maintain the momentum by implementing additional elements of the reform in a timely manner. The proposal here anticipates that there will be phases in the implementation plan, and suggests the possible content of Phase 1. It is expected that Phase 1 would consist of two elements:
The Strategy, endorsed by the Ministers of Education since 1992, provided the basis for national education reform initiatives, the framework for sub-regional initiatives and cooperative ventures in education, and the parameters within which donor involvement and cooperation could be sought and coordinated.
On the basis of proposals arising out of the Strategy and subsequent related reports endorsed by OECS Ministers of Education, four basic interrelated structures and arrangements have emerged as necessary for the adequate implementation of the OECS education reform process. These structures and the related responsibilities are as follows:
The OERS implementation plan is organized around twelve interrelated projects or major areas of focus. These areas are as follows:
The issue of determining the range of initiatives to pursue in an education reform is fraught with difficulties. On the one hand critics argue that reforms fail because initiatives are too few, too indirect, fragmented, and lack cohesiveness (Timar & Kirp 1988; Cuban 1984). On the other hand Farrell (1991) and others warn about the smorgasbord or Christmas tree approach to reform. They argue that a wide range of initiatives cannot generally be translated into reality. The approach taken in the OECS is based on a combination of factors and considerations.
In the first place the OECS Education Reform Strategy involves eight distinct countries that have much in common but that are also at varying stages of educational development. For example, whereas the primary school plant might not be a serious problem in Montserrat or the BVI, it certainly is a matter of serious concern in Dominica; whereas in St. Kitts and Nevis and Montserrat all primary students move automatically to the secondary level, in St. Vincent and St. Lucia only 40 and 50%, respectively, of students move on to secondary school. If the strategy is to be meaningful, then attention must be given to the burning issues of the various countries. Indeed there is much to learn from each other, particularly from those who have managed to solve specific problems.
It is also evident that there is no one way of going about education reform. Successful reforms such as the Chilean Reform (1965-70) can be regarded as a large menu reform and the Colombian Reform (Esquela Nueva) can be regarded as a limited menu reform. The OECS approach has been one of recognizing the problems and tensions and pursuing an implementation strategy that focuses on school level priorities and concerns within a collaborative, integrated development framework that is built on both national and sub-regional goals and constraints.
There are at least four substantial differences that characterize the current OECS Education reform effort and distinguish it from previous efforts in the sub-region. They are:
The massive consultative approach began with the perception and conviction of the Working Group that education reform must involve all actors and stakeholders and that this involvement must be genuine, significant, and ongoing. The Working Group visited each of the eight OECS countries and held discussions over a 2-3 day period with a wide cross-section of actors and stakeholders in education. These included, among others, political leaders, officials of various ministries (including Education, Planning, Personnel, and Finance) various organizations involved in commerce, industry, services and agriculture, various unions (including all Teachers Unions) principals, parent-teacher organizations, youth groups, womens groups, churches and church councils, Rastafarian groups, adult literacy groups, press and media representatives, tertiary-level institutions, students, special education personnel, and senior citizens organizations.
The Working Group received a wealth of ideas, suggestions and insightful comments throughout the territories. But, in general, people expressed annoyance and frustration over the fact that they seldom even saw reports on these consultations and that nothing positive and practical ever came out of them. Copies of the report were subsequently delivered to all groups that had been consulted. In addition, an entire chapter of the report entitled Voices, Views and Visions (OECS 1991, 49-67) attempted to capture the full range of ideas, comments, and recommendations arising out of the consultations.
The consultative process continued as actors and stakeholders in the eight countries attempted to define a manageable set of priority initiatives for the implementation process. The process continues though the implementation phase with consultations on the Harmonization of Education Legislation, special education approaches, TVET possibilities, the proposed Curriculum Production Center, and the development of tertiary-level initiatives among others.
The consultative process is maintained through constant collaboration with all member states through a system of Island Representatives (who meet at least twice a year to help monitor and prepare programs); and through meetings of Ministers of Education, and education personnel. This consultative process, though costly in terms of time, energy, and other resources, has served to ensure and preserve ownership of the reform by all states and to develop a vested interest by persons across the sub-region in the success of the strategy.
One of the major recommendations of the Working Group was that a Reform Unit should be established within the OECS Secretariat to serve as the executive arm of the OECS Education Reform Council.
The OECS Education Reform Unit (established, but not yet fully staffed) is the principal institution responsible for facilitating the implementation of OERS policy as formulated by the Council of Ministers. More specifically, the Unit is expected to perform the following main functions:
It is unlikely that each territory in the OECS will have the resources to develop the institutional capacity to manage the reforms and changes that are required to bring their education systems in line with the constant changes in and the demands of the economic and social environment. It is also perhaps unnecessary. Indeed the major raison detre underlying the OERS is the harnessing of the synergies that are readily available to the combined education sectors. Through the coordinating efforts of the OERU it is expected that teams of OECS specialists in various areas can come together to assist each other, to articulate policy proposals, and to implement and monitor initiatives in various critical areas and at different levels of the system. These territories are also fortunate to have at their disposal resources from the University of the West Indies (UWI), the CARICOM Secretariat, the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and various other partners and agencies that can assist in the overall reform effort.
As noted earlier, the sub-region has been fortunate to receive significant assistance for education from a wide range of agencies and partners. These include BDDC, CARICOM, CIDA, CXC, CDB/WB, EU, GTZ, OAS, OCOD, UNESCO, UNDP, UNICEF, UNIFEM and UWI. Important, however, is that prior to the OERS there was no available mechanism for coordinating externally funded projects in the sub-region. In fact, few structures were available to ensure that appropriate frameworks were established through which such projects could be adequately integrated into overall education plans. In most instances agencies determined the specific areas of their involvement, the full extent of their involvement, the timing of their involvement, and changed their focus or terminated their involvement (sometimes at embarrassingly short notice) on the basis of their own circumstances. Moreover, it was not always evident up front, but in many cases the recipient countries found themselves saddled with burdensome project-related costs. This uncoordinated approach meant that the cumulative effects of the combined agency efforts and of course local input (human, financial, and material) produced lower returns than might be expected from the level of resource inputs. The OERS, through the OERU now provides the framework for the involvement of and cooperation with the various agencies and partners. The process of collaboration and cooperation has been pursued through regular consultations with the various agencies and partners and the development of a matrix arrangement that clearly defines ongoing and prospective involvement in the strategy.
There has been the growing feeling over the last few years that agencies involved in assisting in the financing of education ought to change their style of cooperation (Hallak & Tobelem 1993; King 1992; Frederick 1990). Indeed King (1992) refers to a recent orientation of education aid policy away from enclave projects managed and protected by special donor-controlled units to interventions which support locally developed education policies and which are implemented through local sustainable institutions. The notions of capacity building, sustainability, and ownership are critical to this paradigm shift away from the usual one-shot, narrowly defined project approach that has come to characterize external assistance initiatives.
CIDA, the anchor-agency in the OERS through the Eastern Caribbean Education Reform Project (ECERP) and in collaboration with the OECS defines the purpose of the project as to strengthen the capacity of Eastern Caribbean States to plan and implement education reform through sub-regional cooperation. In the CIDA/OECS draft management plan the objectives of ECERP are listed as follows:
In general, agreement has been reached that the project is to be iterative in nature. That is to say that, subject to well-defined parameters, the various initiatives undertaken will be constantly reviewed and freedom will be given to manage the project, to intensify or contract planned activities, or shift direction as required during the seven-year life of ECERP. These arrangements constitute a substantial variation from previous agency-funded initiatives in education in the sub-region and provide the framework within which significant capacity-building measures can be undertaken. The project also provides the environment in which other externally funded projects can be coordinated and supported to have more meaningful and sustainable effect on the overall reform strategy.
* Dr. George Forde is currently the Director of the Education Reform Unit of the Secretariat of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. He was a member of the Working Group that developed the OECS Education Strategy and is now charged with the responsibility of guiding its implementation. Previously, Dr. Forde was responsible for educational planning in the Ministry of Education, St. Lucia. He is presently Principal of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College in Castries, Saint Lucia.
1. The Working Group was comprised of Professor Errol Miller, Chairman (Mona, UWI), Mrs. Mary Fenton, (Montserrat), Dr. George Forde, (St. Lucia), Mr. Anthony Lockhart (Dominica), Mr. Bertram Ross (St. Kitts and Nevis), Mrs. Evelyn Sheppard (Antigua and Barbuda), Mr. Francis Sookran (Grenada), and Mr. Cools Van Loo (St. Vincent and The Grenadines).
2. The report entitled Foundation for the Future: OECS Education Reform Strategy was made available to a wide cross-section of people and institutions, including all groups, agencies, and bodies consulted during on-island meetings.
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