STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
DURING THE SEVENTH SITTING OF THE FIRST SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2019
UPDATE IN EDUCATION
Mr. Speaker, as this is the first sitting since the start of the new school year, permit me to share with this Honourable House some updates on education matters. We began the new school year under the theme, “Engage, Encourage, Empower – Educate”. As we strive to work through this theme, some key areas of focus are: training and development for educators at all levels; improving the quality of teaching and learning; curriculum and assessment improvements; and improving discipline and student engagement.
Also high on our priority list is a review of the education system. The last education system review was conducted in 2000 by a working group commissioned through the United Nation Education and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO). This year, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) made funding available to us to conduct a mid-year review of our education sector strategy 2012 – 2021. Consultants met and spoke with key stakeholders on 16th September and the draft review was received. We await the final submission, Mr. Speaker, and this we hope to use as the basis for a full system review in the coming months.
Mr. Speaker, we had a successful Professional Day and Summer Institute for educators during the week of 26th August. Although it was interrupted by Hurricane Dorian, the momentum was high and educators benefitted greatly. Sessions for educators included critical literacy in the content areas, physical literacy for all, and curriculum and assessment for specific subjects. Our next Professional Day will be held on 24th October where teachers will once again engage in skill building sessions.
New trends in education indicate, Mr. Speaker, that a growing education system must engage its teachers frequently in skills building sessions, so along with the session on 24th October, there are scheduled professional days for teaching staff throughout this school year. During these scheduled professional days, which will be one day per term, students do not attend school and time is given to professional instruction for teachers. Conveniently, the Professional Development Day is the day before our mid-term break which is scheduled for 25th October, 2019.
Mr. Speaker, the literacy reading programme introduced during the last school year in Grades K – 2 will move up to Grade Three. We held a successful Reading Is Fun Week last week and we will continue our quest of building reading skills for our students throughout the year. Reading skills across the system are of major concern and we are attacking this directly in all public primary schools.
I am pleased to report, Mr. Speaker, that the French programme is now at the Grade nine level. Students at the Elmore Stoutt High School and Bregado Flax Educational Centre, secondary division, have had the opportunity to learn French. We hope to take them through to the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level. This is a move in the right direction, especially with the expansion of the tourism industry now reaching into French speaking territories.
Mr. Speaker, students in Grade 12 who completed six or more CSEC exams, inclusive of Math and English successfully by the end of Grade 11 in the 2018-2019 school year, are now enrolled at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College as full -time students. Instead of completing CAPE at the secondary level, the change was made to have eligible students enroll as full-time students at the college where CAPE subjects can be studied as an equivalent college course. Mr. Speaker, this is one adjustment that was made to the existing Grade 12 structure and I must say, it was a smooth transition.
Mr. Speaker, very early in my tenure, I spoke about the additional year at secondary school and that I was conducting a review of it. In the coming days, I will give a detailed statement on the adjustments made. I would just mention, Mr. Speaker, that our system was strengthened by providing the time and resources required to help meet student’s academic needs. It is now being further strengthened by providing more flexibility to meet the diverse needs of students in the system. In my statement, I will explain more about the two paths that will be created.
Mr. Speaker, the Ministry was pleased to reopen three new school buildings in September. We completed the Bregado Flax Educational Centre Secondary division building number one, Enis Adams Primary School, and the Elmore Stoutt High School ‘L’ shaped building, now known as the L. Adorothy Turnbull Building. Let me again place on record our sincere thanks and appreciation to the benefactors: Mr. Peter Haycraft – Rite Way Company Limited for Enis Adams Primary; and Unite BVI Charitable Foundation and Cable and Wireless Limited Charitable Foundation for Bregado Flax.
The restoration of the L-Shaped Building was one of the Ministry’s biggest challenges, Mr. Speaker. However, despite the limited time within which we had to complete it, I am pleased to report that it was completed on time and within budget. The significance of this project, Mr. Speaker, was to have the junior school relocated to this campus and thus end the shift system which was in place since the 2017 hurricanes. We are all pleased that our secondary students can now benefit from a full day of instruction. I would like to once again applaud the contractors—Metro Construction Ltd., Quality Construction Ltd., Construction and Industrial Equipment Ltd., Autland Heavy Equipment Company Ltd. and Quality Air Conditioning and Refrigeration for their hard work, dedication and collective collective pledged and received donation totaling $55,000 toward outfitting of classrooms with furniture, equipment and/or supplies for the school.
Mr. Speaker, although the buildings are operational, the Ministry had to put plans in place to provide substitute furniture and equipment for the three locations. The delay in obtaining the requisite furniture and equipment is due to the fact that they are being purchased through the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) Recovery Loan (Phase 2 – School Supplies – Furniture). Bids have already been received and the evaluation report is currently before CDB for No Objection before we can move forward with purchases. This delay, Mr. Speaker, has no doubt placed some hardship, financially and otherwise.
Mr. Speaker, with the mention of the CBD loan funding, allow me to provide this Honourable House an update on some progress made with CBD loan funding for other projects for schools:
Bregado Flax Educational Centre (Secondary Division)
The scope of works is for Block 2, Block 3, Administration and Restroom Blocks and External Works. Architectural and engineering drawings have been completed. The tender document has been completed and CDB's No Objection has been received. The tender document is to be issued this week for a period of six weeks through the national competitive bidding process.
Eslyn Henley Richez Learning Centre
The scope of works is for the demolition and rebuilding of a purpose-built school. At present, the consultant has been engaged to commence the architectural and engineering drawings.
School Supplies – Furniture
The contract for Phase I has been executed and furniture is being delivered this month. These include: teachers’ desks; school assembly chairs; classroom cabinets; primary school students’ desks; primary school students’ chairs; pre-primary students’ desks; cots and bookcases.
School Supplies - Office Equipment
The contract was executed and all equipment were delivered in September 2019.
Equipment included large photocopying machines; Samsung 49" Smart televisions; dry erase boards; laminating machines; LCD Projectors; playmats; and water coolers.
School Supplies - ICT Equipment - Bids were received and the evaluation report is before CDB for No Objection. The next step is for the Central Tenders Board’s recommendation to Cabinet for approval. Equipment include: laptops; desktops with monitors; desktops with monitors suitable for technical studies; smart boards; and plotters.
School Supplies - Local Area Network Equipment and Supplies – This is to rewire and enhance the IT capabilities of all public schools throughout the Territory. Bids were received and the evaluation report is being finalized to submit to CDB for No Objection.
Mr. Speaker, I recognize that we have had some extensive delays for certain projects, but we are making progress. I therefore continue to ask for the patience of our educators, parents and students as we work through the CDB process.
Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Education has been favoured with many donations since Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. The list is long with all the contributions that have been received. In this forum I wish to once again express sincere gratitude to all the donors who have contributed since our recovery process to various aspects of our education sector.
Very recently, the Maples Group donated $100,000 for the music classrooms project. A portion of this donation, $15,000 was allocated to invest in musical instruments for the ESHS Music Department. A list of musical instruments has been compiled. The RDA has now requested formal tender submissions from a number of firms that supply these instruments. The deadline for submissions is 23rd October. We expect that after this date, a swift decision will be made, following which the instruments will be handed over during a formal ceremony.
Mr. Speaker, the responsibilities of my Ministry are wide and varied. I continue to thank my team at the Ministry and the staff in the various departments under the Ministry for the service and their various roles as we seek to fulfill our mandate.