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Results Briefs October 26, 2020

Regional Cooperation for Quality Education in Caribbean Small Island States

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Mon Dudon primary school. Saint Lucia. Photo: Marcellus Albertin / GPE

Marcellus Albertin / GPE


To address the root causes of low learning levels, four Eastern Caribbean states (Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) created and implemented a set of common learning standards in core primary subjects, a teacher training program based on those standards, a certification program for school leaders, and new systems for monitoring performance.

Challenge 

In the Eastern Caribbean, large percentages of students completed primary education without achieving the desired competencies in reading and mathematics. Low learning achievement reflected several shortcomings in education quality in the region: (i) a lack of clear learning standards to specify learning outcomes expected at every grade level and to guide teaching and classroom assessment; (ii) teachers insufficiently trained to provide effective instruction and with few professional development opportunities to improve their skills; and (iii) school leaders with limited capacity to support teaching and ensure that teachers perform at desired levels.

These challenges are recognized in the 2012–21 Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Education Sector Strategy (OESS), which includes curriculum and assessment, teaching, and leadership among its strategic imperatives. To realize these goals, member states needed collaboration and region-level technical assistance to overcome the constraints of small systems with overextended ministries of education.

Approach 

In June 2016, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) approved a three-year grant to finance the Support to Implementation of the Regional Education Strategy Project. This project aimed to support the four eligible OECS member states—Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines—in implementing quality enhancement activities under the OESS.

Project interventions included:

  • A set of learning standards that specified expected learning outcomes in language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies in primary grades one through six.
  • A formative assessment framework to aid teachers in evaluating student progress toward achieving the learning standards.
  • Training for primary teachers to integrate the standards and assessment into daily teaching.
  • A framework to guide each country in devising its own professional development plan.
  • Funding for training activities included in national professional development plans.
  • Certification for school leaders in management competencies required to support teachers and improve learning achievement.
  • Support for national monitoring and evaluation teams in establishing processes for systematic monitoring and reporting of education sector initiatives.

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67%

of all primary teachers in the region (2,182 of 3,264) received certification from their ministries of Education


Results 

Project activities contributed to improved primary education quality in the four countries as evidenced by these outcomes:

  • Each of the four participating countries established a National Professional Development (PD) Team and received technical support to develop a National PD Plan. These plans provide a roadmap for teacher training based on each country’s education priorities, desired approaches to professional development, and classroom observation and national learning assessment data. Sixty-seven percent of all primary teachers in the region (2,182 of 3,264) received certification from their ministries of education, reflecting completion of professional development activities to OECS standards.
  • Over two academic years, teachers from primary schools across these countries were trained to integrate the learning standards and assessment framework into their daily classroom teaching. Follow-up support visits helped teachers plan lessons aligned with the learning standards and use formative assessments to make informed decisions about instructional strategies. In April 2019, 24 percent of all primary teachers in the region were observed using formative assessment in their classrooms to monitor students’ progress toward achieving the learning standards.
  • A competency-based Professional Certification Program for Education Leaders was developed based on OECS School Leadership Standards. One hundred and ten primary school principals gained certification, presenting final projects demonstrating competencies developed during the program. By the end of the 2018–19 school year, 87 percent of all primary school leaders across the four countries had reported to Ministry officials on a set of leadership, teacher, and student performance metrics using a School Improvement Plan template designed under the project.
  • Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) teams were trained in data collection and analysis methods, data management, process and outcome monitoring, and results reporting. Each country developed its own implementation plan for project activities and used a template designed under the project to track performance indicators in its system.

Bank Group Contribution 

Hosted by the World Bank, the Global Partnership for Education, the only global partnership and fund dedicated entirely to helping children in the poorest countries receive a quality education, provided a US$2 million grant to finance this project. During the life of the project, the Bank worked closely with the OECS Commission’s Education Management Unit (EDMU), the implementing agency, in all aspects of project coordination, monitoring and evaluation, and fiduciary duties. Throughout the process, EDMU’s project management capacity was strengthened to such an extent that, by project close, the OECS Commission successfully became the GPE grant agent for a follow-up GPE Project. The Bank also provided extensive technical advice, drawing on its global knowledge and experience in the core areas of curriculum, teaching, and school leadership.

Partners 

The Bank worked closely with the OECS Commission throughout the project. Contributions from other development partners, including the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and UNICEF, enabled EDMU to extend the project activities to other member states not eligible for GPE funds. Over the life of the project, the local education group—which provides oversight for GPE projects and includes the Bank, CDB, UNICEF, and other development partners—became increasingly formalized and active.

Beneficiaries 

Project beneficiaries include the approximately 43,000 children attending primary schools in Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In addition, nearly 2,300 teachers and school leaders benefitted from participation in various professional development training activities under the project, as did members of M&E teams within each country’s ministry of education. Finally, all OECS member states—including those not eligible under GPE—now benefit from the regional public goods developed under the project: learning standards, assessment frameworks, teacher PD frameworks, and certification frameworks for school leaders.

Moving Forward 

Project results are expected to be sustained as they align closely with the strategic imperatives of the OESS, which were recently extended for three more years. Activities piloted or partially achieved (e.g., formative assessment in the classroom) are being scaled up. The project also supported activities that strengthened the four countries’ education system capacities without creating recurrent costs for their ministries of education going forward.