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First meeting / Document 10
Education for All in the Caribbean
Caribbean Community Secretariat

Background/Overview

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) comprises fifteen (15) Member States: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago. There are three Associate members: Anguilla, The British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands and observers include Aruba, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Netherlands Antilles For the purposes of Education for All, these twenty two (22) countries work together in shaping policy for the Sub-region.

The Caribbean Regional Technical Advisory Group (RTAG) for EFA undertook the co-ordination of activities prior to the World Education Conference (WEF) in Dakar. As part of the preparation for this Forum, the Caribbean countries examined the results of the EFA Assessment recorded in the 2 sub-regional reports and 14 issues of the monograph/case study series (then completed) and determined the basic education needs of the sub-region. This needs assessment served as a catalyst for the development of a Education for All in the Caribbean: Plan of Action 2000-2015 with specified goals and targets as well as clearly identified dates for achievement of these: 2002; 2008; 2015.

The Plan of Action is closely aligned with the concept of the creation of "The Ideal Caribbean Person" as defined by the Heads of Government of CARICOM (attached at Appendix 1) and which was adopted by all national governments. The Plan of Action was tabled at Dakar and it is within this framework that EFA is being pursued within CARICOM and the wider Dutch/French/English speaking Caribbean.

The seven (7) areas targeted and the monitoring countries appointed for each as follows:

1. Early Childhood Care and Education - Guyana

2. Primary Education - Netherlands Antilles

3. The Education of Youth and Adults at the Secondary Level - Jamaica

4. Enabling Teachers - Saint Lucia

5. The use of Information and Communication Technology in Instruction and Management of Education - Barbados

6. Involvement of Civil Society - Belize

7. Performance and Accountability of all Stakeholders, National Investments and Resource Mobilization - Barbados

The following monitoring agencies were also identified for the respective areas:

  • United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) - Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED)

  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) -Involvement of Civil Society

  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) - all other components.
  • The UNESCO sub-regional office located in Kingston, Jamaica has been identified as the coordinator of a regional monitoring team, to work closely with the CARICOM Secretariat in monitoring the entire process. The team is composed of representatives of CARICOM, The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), The Dutch Speaking countries, Haiti, the University sector, relevant NGOs, private sector agencies, intergovernmental, bi- and multi-lateral agencies. Additionally each of the 22 countries has been asked to name a representative to liaise with the core monitoring team and to be responsible for establishing in-country monitoring mechanisms.

    Applicability of Country Guidelines on National Education for All Plans of Action

    The Plan of Action recognises that most of the substantive follow-through on EFA would need to be implemented at the country level, thus it envisages the need for the appointment of persons in the respective countries who would act as liaisons between the countries and the regional monitoring team to ensure adequate monitoring of the activities at the national level. Most importantly, in order to ensure that the Plan of Action gains the widest acceptance possible, Ministers of Education, have made commitments to present it for endorsement to their respective Cabinets, to table it in their Parliaments; and finally to present it to the Conference of Heads of Government, the highest decision making body in the Community, for endorsement. Ministers of Education also undertook to ensure that the Plan was discussed widely within their countries by December 2000.

    In terms of regional action, four areas have been identified:

    1. The establishment of a Caribbean Regional Educational Management of Information System (CREMIS) to develop a reliable and efficient education data collection and management system

    2. The establishment of common definitions, methods of measurement and standards for literacy linked to international standards, so that country progress can be reliably measured against on agreed regional standard (The EFA assessment revealed that a variety of definitions and measures were in use in the region, making comparability difficult if not impossible)

    3. Development of reliable indicators of quality to assist in measuring educational development

    4. Development of reliable and valid quantitative indicators

    All Member States of CARICOM, falling under the aegis of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) Plan of Action have committed to the targets documented therein and many of them are in the process of appointing national advisory committees including all stakeholders.

    In addition, most countries have national education plans, which include commitment to EFA goals, but they may need to make adjustments with respect to qualitative targets within goals:

    (i) Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED) - Persistent advocacy and social mobilisation, in particular by UNICEF has propelled governments to be more involved in ECED. Recognising the crucial importance of ECED to the success of any initiative in human resource development, the Caribbean Plan for ECED was adopted by the Heads of Government in July 1997 as part of the Regional Human Resource Development Strategy.

    (ii) Primary Education - Virtually all countries provide some form of basic education for all students up to the age of fourteen. Besides giving emphasis to access, attention is being made to improving to quality.

    (iii) Gender Equity - In terms of gender equity, both boys and girls have equal access, but there is growing disparity in the participation rates between boys and girls, particularly at the secondary level. In response to this situation, the CARCOM Secretariat, in collaboration with the Regional Co-ordinating Unit of the Centre for Gender and Development Studies, University of the West Indies developed a module for Teacher Education which is a first step in making teachers aware of ways in which gender bias and stereotypes are reproduced their own behaviours and through a variety of processes in the school. The module has been published and circulated to governments and training institutions in the Region.

    (iv) Secondary education - There has been progress in expanding access to this level of schooling and most countries already have universal secondary education and one committed to it since Dakar. An issue, which needs specific attention, is that of out-of -school youth, in particular young males. Programmes are being developed, in collaboration with non-governmental organisations to address the problem

    (v) Life Skills Education - All CARICOM Member States have recognised that changing societal and family values and traditions, disintegrated community life and unsatisfactory educational approaches have contributed to the development of young people who are poorly equipped to cope with the stresses of everyday life. Thus the teaching of life skills has become a necessity and not an option for Caribbean classrooms. The CARICOM multi-agency Health and Family Life Education Project (HFLE), established as a direct consequence of the desire of Caribbean governments to protect the region's youth, meets this need by developing curricula with cross-cutting themes that focus on the development on the whole child (emotional, social, mental and physical) seeks to empower young people with skills for healthy living.

    It is evident, therefore that Caribbean countries do not need to redo their national plans but rather to realign them with the targets outlined in the Plan of Action and to monitor continually progress in this regard.

    National/Regional Mobilisation

    There are several challenges, which the Region faces in respect of meeting the goals of EFA. These include developing a workforce with the capacity to cope with the effects of globalisation, retooling and reconfiguring education and training at all levels enhancing productive capabilities, mainstreaming gender in order to identify and address inequities laying the foundation necessary for dealing with the new global environment by equipping students with the essential employability skills - problem solving, critical thinking, analytic and evaluative skills, willingness to adapt to change and commitment to lifelong training.

    The agenda is wide and consequently the challenge for small countries such as those in the Caribbean is enormous. The debt burden of some countries is extraordinary and this has seen the rise of unacceptably high levels of unemployment and poverty, which have been exacerbated by the rapid changes at the global level. This burden of unemployment has fallen particularly on women, youth, the disabled and rural groups. Of particular concern are the threats to the preferential European markets and the implications of the World Trade Organisation's decisions that will affect our agricultural products in a very profound manner. Thus, the issue of funding becomes vital.

    It is critical that our countries be given support to implement the goals of EFA and that this support not be tied to debt payment or repayment. Donor agencies and development partners must pay particular attention to these factors and shape their policies and requirements accordingly. In addition, it is critical to attract the support of developing partners because countries have been graduated from AID therefore given vulnerability of economics both to disaster and to world wide trends e.g. globalization and digital divide - the sustainable financial framework may be problematic.

    The CREMIS initiative has been well received by CARICOM countries, which have all expressed willingness to give support. A preliminary needs assessment has been completed and a more in depth assessment of technical software and hardware needs will be undertaken as soon as the funding is received. As such, USAID has already committed some support to CREMIS.

    The monitoring team is also supporting national and regional mobilsation. These have already been described earlier and will involve all the countries. All agencies will be involved in the monitoring team with four (4) core ones and all if and when appropriate. All United Nations Country Teams (UNCT) The World Bank (WB), Department for International Development (DFID) and Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) were among the major partners involved in the Assessment effort and it is expected that they will come on board. The determination of quantitative indicators has been limited to the Summit of the Americas and the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) and therefore will have wider regional support.

    The Process of Developing National Action Plans And Ensuring Their Integration In Wider National And International Policy Plans And Frameworks

    1. The Education for All Plan of Action has been accepted by the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) as one strategy in investing in human capital and striving for equity in social development. COHSOD, with Ministerial representation across the social sectors, focuses on bringing more coherence to the functioning of the social sectors and has its major objective, achieving complementarity between the human and economic dimensions of the region's development. COHSOD at a recent meeting endorsed an intersectoral approach for social development and agreed on the adoption of an integrated theme "Investing in Human Capital with Equity". Thus, the EFA goals will be calibrated against goals for the whole social sector, which in turn supports overall development.

    2. The Caribbean Education Strategy developed in response to a request by the Caribbean Group for Co-operation and Development (CGCED) for assistance in preparing a Caribbean Development Strategy to the year 2020 (Vision 2020) also provides a framework for educational reform necessary to address the demands of economic and social transformation in the Caribbean. The Strategy has been accepted with modifications by Ministers of Education and among the accepted targets are:

  • Narrowing the Knowledge Gap

  • Making the School the Focus of the learning Community

  • Reducing Inequities in the School Systems

  • Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Global Competitiveness and a Goal of Educational Reform

  • Improving Education Financing and Management
  • 3. Summit of the Americas Plan of Action on Education Under this Plan, countries of the CARICOM Region are committed to carrying out compensatory and inter-sectoral educational policies and develop programmes of specific attention to groups in a situation of educational backwardness, functional illiteracy and vulnerable socio-economic and cultural conditions. The next meeting of the Summit is scheduled for April 2001 in Canada. The Caribbean is working with the UNESCO offices in Kingston and Santiago and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) on the use of indicators to support the Summit of the Americas initiative.

    Conclusion

    The countries of CARICOM are committed to the goals of EFA and are demonstrating this in their national plans and strategies for education reform. UNESCO, Kingston and CARNEID, Barbados will assist in the dissemination of innovative cases and practices to support the EFA, while the CARICOM Secretariat will continue its role as an integral member of the monitoring team and also as the link to the countries through the Council for Human and Social Development.

    The Ideal Caribbean Person

    The Ideal Caribbean Person should be someone who among other things:

  • is imbued with a respect for human life since it is the foundation on which all the other desired values must rest;

  • is emotionally secure with a high level of self confidence and self esteem;

  • sees ethnic, religious and other diversity as a source of potential strength and richness;

  • is aware of the importance of living in harmony with the environment;

  • has a strong appreciation of family and kinship values, community cohesion, and moral issues including responsibility for and accountability to self and community;

  • has an informed respect for the cultural heritage;

  • demonstrates multiple literacies independent and critical thinking, questions the beliefs and practices of past and present and brings this to bear on the innovative application of science and technology to problems solving;

  • demonstrates a positive work ethic;

  • values and displays the creative imagination in its various manifestations and nurture its development in the economic and entrepreneurial spheres in all other areas of life;

  • has developed the capacity to create and take advantage of opportunities to control, improve, maintain and promote physical, mental, social and spiritual well being and to contribute to the health and welfare of the community and country;

  • nourishes in him/herself and in others, the fullest development of each person's potential without gender stereotyping and embraces differences and similarities between females and males as a source of mutual strength.