Lessons from the Past – EDUTECH

Submitted by Observing

If we never learn from history we are doomed to failure. Between 1995 and approximately 2010 the ambitious EDUTECH programme was promoted under the leadership of the then Minister of Education. All objective analyses and independent reports have concluded that it was a partial success, with many unmet objectives and a significantly less than expected overall impact specifically in the areas of overall technology integration and improved academic achievement

If one had any doubt, just imagine that 20+ years after the fact, we were caught scrambling with devices and online classes during Covid 19, and, the exact same problems being presented now, are the EXACT same problems that existed circa 2000. So, the question is, why did the reform back then “fail?” Here are a few thoughts free of charge.

1. Too many major things at same time
Civil works, technology integration, teacher training and curriculum reform were all done at the same time but out of sync with each other. Computers waited until desks were built. Some schools rushed ahead of the others. Teachers were trained but had nothing to work on. A technology dependent curriculum was implemented with sometimes no technology. This multi-project programme approach was too much.

2. Test and fix model

This model assumes that you “try a thing” and if it doesn’t work then you fix it after. When dealing with young minds and real flesh and blood people though, this model is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Hence the many many plasters and patches that were placed over a 20 year period while the wound was still healing.

3. Unbalanced budgeting
Imagine having 500+ millions dollars to spend, but only spending only 3-5% of it for teacher training and HR development. Enough said.

4. Too many square pegs
Persons chosen to implement were not implementers. The proposed team structure was abolished. Random teachers suddenly became IT administrators and had to learn on the job. Add in the political and bureaucratic pressure from those without any policy or technology background and voila, ineffectiveness and inefficiencies appear.

5. Shiny toy syndrome
Rather than get the needed tools to solve the actual problem and get the job done, we often opted for the tools that had a “wow” factor and looked the shiniest.

6. Parts, maintenance, sustainability
Any major project must have a sustainability plan. Any hardware must have a maintenance / replacement plan. This was not the case.

7. Lack of involvement of teachers
Edutech was a complete “top down-do as I say and tek dah” project. Without the national buy-in, the end results were inevitable.

8. Change in Minister
When a major project depends almost entirely on the gravitas of one person, it eventually dies when that person goes. After the then Minister moved, the others struggled to understand, implement, sell and execute the ambitious proposals.

9. Lack of infrastructure
To this day, Barbadian schools lack adequate 21st century infrastructure.

10. Inefficient integration of technology and training
If our idea of technology training and integration for teachers was Word, Excel and PowerPoint then nothing else needs to be said.

11. Lack of social focus
Integral to any reform must be an acknowledgement that issues in education stem directly from issues in homes and society. A single lesson of “guidance” is not social and emotional learning. A workshop every 2-3 years does not empower teachers to deal with what they are faced with each day. And 6 hours in a classroom will never overshadow 10 hours in a completely contradictory environment elsewhere. A focus on values, norms and community building from the cradle is where real reform begins.

We are where we were before. This time it seems that in addition to redoing a lost two decades, we are now radically disturbing, disrupting and distressing the system with a rushed and uncertain approach with artificial timelines. All of this still with some square pegs, and the same top down approach now masquerading as “consultations” and “pretty pamphlets.”

By all means yes, transform the system. But start at the right place, for the right reason, without the political agenda. Take all the time needed to phase it in and do it right, use the right people, allocate the needed resources in most needed places, invest primarily and support teachers and leaders, integrate the education, social and labour sectors, facilitate a proper and well resourced guidance, counselling and intervention programme in ALL schools and for God’s sake, learn from the past mistakes.

Let us hope those with eyes to see and ears to hear take a pause to look and listen. Most of the bath water should go, but the baby should stay.

P.S. Does anyone want to bet on whether Harrison College (Greenfield, Chapman Lane, Nelson Street), Queens College (Haynesville, Cave Hill, Redmans Village), Combermere (Bush Hall, Bank Hall, Station Hill), St. Michael’s (Halls Road, Carrington Village, Martindales Road), Lodge (Gall Hill, Four Roads, Massiah Street), Alleyne (Belleplaine, Shorey, Hillaby), Alexanda (Road View, Speightstown, Carlton) or Foundation (Silver Hill, Scarborough, Gall Hill) will become “middle” schools forced to accept ALL feeder primary school students closest to them? After all, we are getting rid of “good” schools and “bad” schools…aren’t we?

Uh gone.

39 thoughts on “Lessons from the Past – EDUTECH


      Education chief outlines pending changes for students

      Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw (centre) responding to one of the many questions posed Thursday night on the proposed education reforms. Listening to her are president of the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools, Stephen Jackman
      ( left), and director of the Education Reform Unit, Dr Idamay Denny.

      Students entering secondary school this year may find themselves having to transition to another school by the 2025-2026 academic year.

      Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw said that with the two-tier secondary school system under the Education Reform proposals taking effect in 2025, pending approval, students entering third form will be required to transition to a Junior College of Excellence, if their current school is designated as a Senior College of Excellence.

      Archer-Bradshaw, who was responding to questions during the second public consultation on education reform, which was held at Queen’s College on Thursday night, noted that this also applies to students who would have earned the passing grade at the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Exam for the deemed prestigious schools.

      Asked by retired principal Douglas Corbin about how the transition will impact those children in the midway stage of their secondary school life come 2025, Archer-Bradshaw replied: “This is 2023-24, the first formers will have a year of the traditional education. Between 2024-2025, they would have moved to second form, they would continue with the traditional mode of education. We are proposing that from 2025, those to-be third formers will either remain in their schools or transition to another school.”

      Last month Government announced that, pending public approval, the sweeping plan would include abolition of the Common Entrance Examination, introduction of a new mode of transferring students from primary to secondary school, a new and updated curriculum, construction of two new schools and a two-tier secondary structure consisting of junior and senior colleges of excellence, earmarked to start in the academic year 2025.

      Entrance to secondary school will be determined by a feeder school system, with a built-in appellate mechanism. Additionally, students will be given certification options beyond the traditional suite of exams offered by the Caribbean Examinations Council.

      The Chief Education Officer went into further detail as to the basis and coordination of the proposed transition for those already in the secondary school system.

      “Let me explain to you the basis of the transition. As part of the proposal, we said we would like to see a two-tiered structure where there is a Junior College of Excellence and a Senior College of Excellence. This means that some schools will be assigned as Junior Colleges of Excellence and others Senior Colleges of Excellence,” Archer-Bradshaw said.

      “If the child is at a school that will remain a Junior College of Excellence and that child is supposed to go into third form, then that child will continue at that school. However, if the child is at a school that we designate as a Senior College of Excellence, then that child will have to transition out of that school into a Junior College of Excellence.” (CLM)

      Source: Nation

  1. @ Observing
    Well done ! Unfortunately , we are seeing an identical repeat of the same reasons why Edutech, has been the most glaring failure within education since independence. The political nonsense continues. And this will certainly undermine the few scarce, relevant ideas in the so-called Educational Transformation public relations stunt. Quite frankly outside of finally deciding the Eleven Plus should go, there really is no clarity.
    You will note they have not clearly proposed how the students will be transferred from primary to secondary schools. The public should have at the very least been given two or thr well thought out proposals but this has not been the case.

  2. Do visionaries, non-educators or parents have any input into the cirriculum?

    Why eliminate the CEE, a tool of measurement? Not all minds are created equally. Is the intention behind such move, to mix sheep with goat?

    Education in service is commendable but what have all these schools of prestige and excellence brought the nation other than excellence in servitude and machine feeders?

    Where is the excellence in manufacturing of ‘world class’ products that would alleviate the need to live on borrowed money? I’m sure there’s a niche within this technological arena that Barbados can carve out to call its own. (When I find it I’ll inform). There’s nothing wrong with leaving the beaten path, for a less trodden path where we are more likely to find nuggets.

    Are we contented to be mere ‘end users?’

    Even the schools of prestige appear to handicap the minds of their students with meagre contentment of boasting rights to membership.

    There’s a high degree of selfishness and envy in the culture that hinders collective progress. The nation seems hell bent on mediocrity to which it renders much lip service.

    Obviously the cirriculum is not the only change that’s needed.

  3. “Are we contented to be mere ‘end users?’”

    being end users is the new norm with many off the shelf software packages available for most business and education applications.

    Building, maintaining and upgrading in-house systems with IT development staff is expensive.

    • What is the East Indian population in Barbados?” 5%? Other than traders, is their contribution of such significance that it necessitates incorporation into that cirriculum?

      How can his community aid in the transformation of education?
      Is he entreating the nation to take on his culture which seems to breed success amongst them?

      Will the cirriculum inclusion stop at his history/ culture or are we wiling to adopt the history and culture of others.

      Just asking?

  4. @David
    Re school shifts article.

    A classic example of madness waiting to happen and sheep regurgitating what has been forced down their throats. God help us.

    Let’s see if anyone is willing to wager on my “middle school” bet in blue! lol.

    Quite frankly outside of finally deciding the Eleven Plus should go, there really is no clarity.

    Correct. Don’t forget that this was a platform promise in 2018 that was supposed to happen within 2 years. But the public backlash gave it pause.

    Let’s hope those of us with sense speak out more so sensible things are done rather than what “one person” insists.

    Right now we are still in the political kite flying stage to see how much the public is willing to accept. That final Cabinet decision will not be based on “what is best for schools and children” but instead on “what will keep people happy and my votes or financing in place.”

    The “partial walk back” will begin early next year if the trend continues.

    Just observing

  5. I operated a school which featured “Individual Attention for Individual Students”. Until the MOE comes anywhere near that vision the students of Barbados will be disenfranchised, left behind and only the chosen few will graduate to be in the realms of the elite while the others will be in the slave class. That is the desired effect. God help us.

    • Concern over education plans

      By Colville Mounsey

      The prospect of some third form students having to transition to another school by the 2025-2026 academic year, is not sitting well with one parent-based education advocacy group.

      On Thursday, Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw said that with the two-tier secondary school system under the Education Reform proposals taking effect in 2025, pending approval, students entering third form would be required to transition to a Junior College of Excellence, if their current school is designated as a Senior College of Excellence.

      Paula-Ann Moore, who is also the head of the Barbados Union of Teachers Education Reform Committee, said some parents were already expressing concern that such a mid-stream move could create some disruptions for the students, who would be beginning their preparation for their Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination.

      She also said the consultations were laying bare the absence of details from the proposed suite of education reforms, stressing it was preventing parents from being able to make an informed decision about their children’s future.

      Moore said: “We have no idea which schools are the Junior and Senior Colleges of Excellence. I can tell you that parents need certainty to plan their children’s future and so far, there has been a sparsity of specific information. In this transformation proposal, the details are lacking and, therefore, many of us are becoming increasingly concerned.”

      “This shift that we are talking about will come at a time when children are preparing for CXC, that is not a time for a shift in schools. They have said that there will be alternate qualifications to CXC, but we have still not been told what they are. It is a great start, there are some wonderful initiatives, but we need the details,” she added.

      Need clarity

      Moore warned that unless parents get clarity on these critical issues, similar to what is happening at the primary school level, there would be an increase in the number of parents opting to take their children to private secondary schools, widening the disparity between the haves and the have nots in the education system.

      President of the BUT, Rudy Lovell, said his members were also concerned about the lack of details, noting that until more facts were revealed, teachers would not be able to make a final decision on the proposed changes.

      Lovell concurred with Moore’s view that such a move would be a hard pill to swallow for some parents, stressing it was paramount that the Ministry of Education cleared up the “grey areas” in a timely manner if it is to get full buy-in from the public.

      “There are some grey areas with regard to what is being proposed which even I have some challenges in understanding some of the concepts. Hopefully, over time all would be made clear, and it leads to a successful education transformation. The BUT is waiting until a final proposal has been put in place to go to our members and only then will we know if our members will fully support what is being put on the table,” Lovell said.

      Source: Nation

    • ‘Angry students, tired teachers’ impacting on education

      Article by Emmanuel Joseph
      Published on
      November 4, 2023

      An assessment of the social and emotional status of students and school faculty across Barbados has revealed disturbing emotional issues that stand in the way of learning, the latest public consultation on the government’s education reform plans was told.

      Anger among students and exhaustion among teachers were identified as the most prominent feelings in a litany of emotional woes delivered by Tony Olton, the founder of the Caribbean Institute for Social and Emotional Learning (CISEL). He declared that the authorities would be “spinning top in mud” unless they paid attention to the social and emotional needs of teachers and students.

      His findings appeared to be backed up by the ministry’s own assessment conducted this week, the consultation heard.

      Appearing in the audience at Queen’s College, he told Ministry of Education officials that his organisation conducted the assessment over the past three years with principals and teachers here and in other Caribbean countries.

      Olton told the forum that three questions were asked as part of the engagements: What are the emotions most prominent among students? What are the emotions most prominent among faculty? And what are the emotions necessary for learning?
      Hyundai Kona Electric Oct 30 – Nov 12

      Anger was followed by frustration, unstableness, disappointment, exasperation, confusion, depression, intolerance, hatred, disinterest, indifference, insecurity, sadness, and fatigue, he reported.

      “I don’t care how much English you teach or Geography, learning cannot take place if those are the emotions that are predominant among students,” he said.

      Among the faculty, most were tired, indifferent, frustrated, angry, disappointed, anxious, burned-out, bored, exhausted, demotivated, discouraged, and impatient, Olton added.

      He said: “You have students who are turning up with what you would otherwise describe as negative emotions. You have faculty turning up who are having their own issues, and then when we asked what are the emotions that are necessary for learning to take place, the same body of respondents [said] curiosity, passion, joy, trust, happiness, contentment, optimism, excitement, concern, enthusiasm and comfort.

      “This is the challenge we are really facing. How do you get faculty to turn up with a mind and spirit that is secure and is able to make connections with their students and bring passion, curiosity, happiness, focus, [and] enthusiasm?

      “Until we get this right…until we treat to the human being, their emotional needs; until we help our children to become self-aware, self-motivated, self-managed to develop a greater capacity to connect with others; to understand where other people are coming from, and to think about life other than their own needs… as the old people used to say, ‘we are spinning top in mud’.

      He told the panel, including Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw and Director of the Education Reform Unit Dr Idamay Denny that social and emotional learning has to be the bedrock or core of everything that is done to achieve educational transformation.

      Dr Denny then revealed that the ministry had carried out two consultations among primary and secondary school students on Monday, which showed results similar to what Olton’s institute found about social and emotional issues.

      She said it was discovered that children often make fun of disabled peers.

      “This says to us that there is some lack of emotional security in children, and we want to get that back…because, if we can get that back, it means that the school is not going to have to work alone to help get all of the children into the place that we want to get them. Their peers are going to see themselves involved in that process as well,” Dr Denny told the audience.

      She explained the ministry views the development of social and emotional skills as critical if the children are to develop into the adults that “we want them to be”.

      Janet Vaughn, a retired teacher, offered a different view of the main problem facing education in Barbados, pointing to literacy issues.

      “Reading is the prerequisite for equipping our children for life-long learning,” he said. “The major problem in education in Barbados today is that too many students leave primary school not being able to read. When we address that problem, everything else will fit in. We don’t have to worry about putting every subject that there is on the curriculum in primary schools.”

      She also called for more attention to be paid to pre-primary education and smaller classes for Infants A and B in primary schools so that teachers are easily able to spot students who are lagging.

      “I would like to suggest that for class one, you have a teaching assistant. The idea there is to spot any student who might have a little difficulty and get things moving,” Vaughn submitted.

      In response to the issue of reading, Archer-Bradshaw said: “How are we going to tackle it? We know that there are some teachers who cannot teach reading. So, we have to first fix that. So, we have engaged the Erdiston Teachers Training College to offer continuous professional development workshops for our teachers, specifically focused on the teaching of reading.”

      She also disclosed that an education officer has now been tasked specifically to boost reading across all primary schools.

      Declaring that a culture of reading must be created within schools, the education chief indicated there are reading clubs in primary schools. Principals have also been encouraged to make reading an extracurricular activity or lunchtime event.

      Source: Nation

  6. It appears we are now having real debate!

    Where is the opposition political party on this issue??? The academics? The current educational leaders? The Unions?

    Just observing

  7. When will the educational system deal with the coverup of black history.
    The lying European academics finally admit that first European were black.
    “Our Dutch ancestors have always been portrayed as butch, white types. But that’s not what they looked like at all. They were dark-skinned”, says Eveline Altena, an archaeologist specialising in “ancient DNA” at Leiden University Medical Centre.The evidence relating to the first indigenous Dutch comes primarily from DNA f of human bone found off the North Sea coast .

  8. I know nothing about Edutech really, except that it was a huge flop. Indeed, I hardly noticed that it happened. I recall paying to take a few computer courses in an effort to conquer my computer phobia. ( I had somehow managed to pass my Cave Hill Data Processing etc. course without going near the computer lab to do the one practical assignment.)

    As it happened soon after, my yearly contract was not renewed due to the IMF programme requiring our teacher:pupil ratio to be reduced.🤔

    I don’t have a clue if what Observing observed is actually what occurred but if I had to place a bet, I’d take my chances on it. This is how we do it, it seems.

    After all, we hosted the deciding overs of an ICC World Cup Final in the dark.

    We built a River Terminal that floods after a shower.

    We built an airport that exposes its passengers to a drenching.

    We dug a big multimillion dollar hole up in Greenland.

    We were about to waste a few hundred million dollar waste to energy plant with failed technology.

    We can’t even co-ordinate road works and utility upgrades and repairs.

    And now we have a 2020 police station full of mould!

    On the “bright side”, our prison seems to work quite well, after cost overruns doubled the price.

    Lordie! It appears we suck!

    This education reform plan is full of holes. And we know the devil is always lurking in the details.

    I was stupidly optimistic at one point. But unfortunately, those at the top of the MoE have not shown any competence in small matters, so….

    • Tell us if the government at the time or Bajans are who that decided to bowl overs in the dark at a world cup cricket event that the ICC controlled.

    • Fool, the ICC and everybody knew before Kensington was going to get refurbish that it was not going to have lights.

  9. Not only should it not have lights, it should not have day. Should be at the back of some cave. I think they would score more runs with a caveman club than with a cricket bat.

    Why do you think a group cricketers is called a club in Barbados

  10. Fool???? You would call me a fool for that, yuh johnny!

    The ICC knew but if we want to play we are “world class” we should not have allowed it to happen.

    “Egg en ha nuh right at big rock dance!”

    • @Observing

      Thought it was a lowly blogmaster a little slow. A more detailed and comprehensive explanation is required here!

    • @Observing

      This is true but the vetting of submissions should not be left to teachers selecting unapproved application to verify. It should be managed from the MOE to ensure standards are maintained.

  11. The only politician/official worth listening to is Mia. It awesome (just awesome to watch her conduct these meeting as if she is a maestro.

    The fact that many of the promises she make are not kept should not detract from the show. She is in over head with only ‘the voice’ but can still hold a listener spellbound.

    A+ … For ducking and dodging issues, passing the buck and securing a seat on the next flight out of Barbados
    C+ … climate change. She has produced more hot air speaking and traveling than what she saved
    A+ … Delegation. Watching her delegate tasks to the underlings is a beautiful sight. The fact that some things are not done even after a year should not be counted towards her grade.
    ̶𝙰+ … 𝖠̶𝖼̶𝗍̶𝗂̶𝗈̶𝗇̶ Inaction. There is an expression “the talkers don’t do, the doers don’t talk”. Ladies and gentle men, we have a talker.

  12. Johnnie,

    I did not say we could call off the match. I am saying we should have had LIGHTS!

    Done with your stupid ass!

  13. It is never my intention to choose a side, but I have been asked to pick a winning phrase.

    “DONE WITH YOU, have the last word.”
    “Done with your stupid ass!”

    I do not want to be accused of picking favorites, so I am asking you to vote on the better phrase.

    TheO’s vote
    I think the second phrase has more sting.

    It should be pointed out that Frank has engaged in numerous fights and have not yet won any.

  14. Transformation, reform, or cynicism?

    “The prevailing notion of policy change in Barbados is one of transformation, a concept that the government wants Barbadians to buy into since “we are all in this together”, “all hands are needed on deck”, “many hands make light work”, and the “Government can’t do it all”. For example, the Barbadian education system will not be “reformed”; it is to be “transformed” as collectively we “go for the gold”. The new republic is supposed to represent a significant departure from the colonial past that after nearly 60 years of Independence was apparently still keeping us in thrall. We, whoever we are, have allowed the colonisers to win, or so we are told.
    Transformation, one supposes, is a good thing, supposing that its results are positive, but it must be perceived and promoted not just as a set of buzzwords and pious self-serving platitudes aimed at convincing the unthinking and the untutored. The prime minister tells us that we are on a journey and she wants us all to come on board. Her responsibility, she says, is “to secure the victory.” But beyond the facile rhetoric, one is not sure precisely what the endgame is. We are binding a partnership with households and communities, she says, but still, there is a lack of transparency as much remains hidden in the shadows.”

    Barbados Today

    At least there are still one or two among us who can separate common sense from bull shit !

  15. @William
    Much more than one or two but in a culture of silence and fear not many will speak out!

    Let us hope that the “powers that be” truly listen to the feedback on the looking fiasco and make the adjustments needed.

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