Editor’s note: The following is the second in a series of updates on World Bank-funded programmes initiated in Caricom member states over the last few years.
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 programme based on those standards, a certification programme for school leaders, and new systems for monitoring performance.
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 recognised in the 2012–21 Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Education Sector Strategy (OESS), which includes curriculum and assessment, teaching, and leadership among its strategic imperatives. To realise these goals, member states needed collaboration and region-level technical assistance to overcome the constraints of small systems with overextended ministries of education.
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:
Project activities contributed to improved primary education quality in the four countries as evidenced by these outcomes:
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.
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.
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.
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.