Mar 04, 2020 1:00 PM
Clare Browne - Director of Education
Education in Antigua and Barbuda in the 21st Century

The 21st century economy is information-based and driven by technology and globalization. In a knowledge economy, therefore, every student must be provided with opportunities to acquire and demonstrate a range of competencies and skills that go beyond those that were traditionally taught, including problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation. Undoubtedly, every student in Antigua and Barbuda must be provided with an education that enables him/her to use new and emerging information and take full advantage of technologically driven careers. 21st century job growth must never surpass our ability to produce a prepared workforce with greater understanding and application of technology, multiple literacies, adaptability and employability. Put another way, students’ educational experiences must both reflect our current digital reality and equip them to engage with it if they are to stake their claim in our fast-changing world.

Numerous other studies conclude that using technology can be greatly advantageous to the learning process. If our students are to be meaningfully engaged to pursue careers that do not yet exist, to compete in the coming decades, the education system here must be reviewed and renewed to ensure this exploitation of future jobs, to safeguard this global competitiveness. In spite of the surrounding discourse, the e-books and devices have a fundamental role to play in this transition. However, for this venture to be successful, all stakeholders (Ministry of Education, Board of Education, Principals, Teachers, Students, Parents and community) must work in partnership. We acknowledge that well over a decade, the Rotary Club of Antigua with its affiliate the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club and through the Rotary Grant Project has provided thousands of computer systems and other hardware for students and teachers as well as training for teachers to improve their ability to reach students more effectively by using technology in their lesson plans and lessons. 

A 21st century education commissions a calculated focus on literacy. Reading is an essential skill for a child’s further academic development and later professional success, especially in the emerging knowledge-based society.

According to UNESCO, globally, at least 750 million youth and adults still cannot read and write and 250 million children are failing to acquire basic literacy skills. Under the umbrella of the OECS Commission, with financial support from the USAID, key focus was placed on equipping students to be competent readers by Grade 3 (that is, the majority of students reading at or above grade level). To obtain data on the reading performance of students at Grade 2, a baseline early reading assessment was conducted. The data revealed the need to address: Teachers instruction competencies, Provision of teaching and learning materials,

The Final Report (OECS, 2016) chronicled that throughout the six independent states in the region (Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines), 58 % of the assessed students were reading below that of the grade 1 level. This is a cause for reflection and call to action as 6.3% in St Vincent and the Grenadines to 13% in Dominica showed reading competence at or above grade level. (Put another way, at least 87% of the students assessed were reading below the grade 2 level).

Antigua and Barbuda performance was commensurate with that of the region where only 5.3 % of the students demonstrated comprehension proficiency. This means while there is some instruction in sound/symbol correspondence, there needs to be a focus on reading for meaning. The OECS data parallels that of the recent National Assessment data across Grades 2, 4 and 6…..

We acknowledge the work of the Rotary Club of Antigua in the area of literacy and anticipates continued support. We need it.

In conclusion, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is committed to fashioning a 21st century education system that enables all our young learners to become “emotionally intelligent and socially competent; Madam President, distinguished Rotarians, I appreciate your attention.