UWI Open Campus certify early childhood practitioners in e-learning pedagogy

Workshop trained 40 Early Childhood Practitioners to deliver quality education at a distance.(Photo via Global Partnership for Education)

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) now has a cohort of Early Childhood Educators with new skills to conduct online teaching of children between the ages of three and eight.

A recently-concluded workshop trained 40 Early Childhood Practitioners from across the Community in delivering quality education at a distance. It was organised and implemented through a collaboration involving the CARICOM Secretariat, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Caribbean Child Development Centre (CCDC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, Programme Manager for Human Resource Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Laurette Bristol, commended the collaboration with UNESCO which aimed at providing opportunities that were relevant, and in-tune with the needs CARICOM. She highlighted the critical need for Early Childhood Educators, to which the UWI Open Campus had been responding. In this regard, she lauded the Campus for “putting service to the Region first” by agreeing, free of cost, to facilitate the workshop and certify the skills the participants obtained, after successful completion of the course assessments.

Striking a personal tone, Dr. Bristol told the beneficiaries that “education is a matter of the heart,” and as a former Primary School Teacher, she was always thinking about how education policy and administration translated to actions on the ground.

“We are addressing the foundation level and once we do that, everything will be so much easier for our young people,” Dr Bristol told the graduating cohort of the CARICOM Early Childhood Education Training Programme.

Regarding projected activities to advance the sector, she revealed that plans were progressing for the establishment of a Caribbean Early Childhood Education Association, to scale up capacity-building and networking among practitioners in the Caribbean.

Ms. Fadeke Arthur of Guyana (top, right) and Ms. Tesecum Santos of Belize (bottom, right), two participants of the CARICOM Early Childhood Education Training Programme, and Dr. Laurette Bristol (top, left), Programme Manager for Human Resource Development at the CARICOM Secretariat during an interview with Ms. Tusankine English-Francis of the CARICOM Secretariat’s Communications Unit

The Human Resource Development specialist added that CARICOM was cognizant of its “moral obligation” to “insure” the early childhood sector and to “ensure” the learning outcomes for students at that level.

Main Facilitator of the Workshop, Consultant and Former Early Childhood Coordinator of UWI Open Campus and Programme Leader, Bloom Early Childhood Centre of Excellence Jamaica, Ms. Cathryn O’Sullivan, told the participants it was a pleasure for her to spend the four weeks of training with them.

“I am inspired by all of your hard work, your dedication and your commitment to your children,” she stated.

Head of the Caribbean Child Development Centre and Director of the Consortium for Social Development and Research at the University of the West Indies, Open Campus in Jamaica, Ms. Ceceile Minott, congratulated the cohort of Early Childhood Practitioners for successfully completing the workshop that provided certification that they could use in the future.

She encouraged them to continue using the skills they acquired and to share with their colleagues. Ms. Minott also commended the CARICOM Secretariat and UNESCO for their collaboration, and pledged the continued support of the UWI Open Campus for future partnerships.

National Programme Officer for Education in UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean, Ms. Latoya Swaby-Anderson, in her remarks, told the participants that their commitment to strengthening competencies in Early Childhood Education was “commendable.”

“Early Childhood Education is the best investment a country can make to promote Human Resource Development, gender equality, social cohesion and to reduce the cost for later remedial programmes at the primary and secondary levels,” the UNESCO Education Programme Officer said.

Highlighting the critical role Early Childhood Education played in the lives of vulnerable children, she noted that it compensated for the disadvantages and challenges at the family level, and combatted educational and social inequalities.

Against that background, she said UNESCO emphasised that Early Childhood Education should not just be an educational issue, nor put on the sidelines of discussions and strategies for economic recovery. Rather, she added, Early Childhood Education should be “part of discussions in multilateral fora as strategic investments for societies.”

Touching on the impact of COVID-19 on teachers, Ms. Swaby-Anderson said in-service trainee teachers were among the learners affected by school closures. They hadn’t access to face-to-face tutorials, in-person supervision and the essential practice of teaching, to be effective in the classroom.

“Even as we move forward in reimaging the future of education we want to continue building support for teaching capacity in digital technologies. We want to encourage renewed focus on supporting teacher well-being, teacher social, emotional competencies and resilience in order to mitigate the issues of teacher stress and burn out that is becoming prevalent,” Ms Swaby-Anderson stated.

She urged “essential action” to support the cohort of teachers “trusted to engage with the most vulnerable population – young, dependent and impressionable students.”

The role of the family and value of “inter-generational learning” the UNESCO Education Programme Officer said, was a critical “complement to distance education of young children.”

In encouraging the workshop’s beneficiaries, she said while COVID-19 had presented hazards to learning, the hard work and commitment they demonstrated during the training, exemplified how the sector could weather the storms and build resilience in Early Childhood Education and Development in the Caribbean.

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