Education reform plan seeks to better cater to special-needs students

The newly proposed reform of Barbados’ education system, which is slated to start in the 2025 academic year, will provide an improved focus on children with special needs.

That was announced last Thursday during the launch of the Education Transformation Proposal at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Dr Idamay Denny, director of the Education Reform Unit, said it was important that Barbados, as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, offer the same quality of education to a disabled child that it would for one who wasn’t.

“One of the rights of those persons is a right to an education to that child’s fullest potential and it was obvious that we were not addressing the needs of that child,” Denny said. “Generally speaking, as we had those consultations (with stakeholders in the education sector), there was a theme flowing through. Everyone was in agreement that the system could not be as it was now. They felt that we needed to have equity.”

She added: “We need to have transitional programming for children with special needs. They may not be able to go and operate in highly complex situations but, surely, there are things that they can do, and we can introduce them to and help them to develop their skills. It will allow those children to leave school and achieve a measure of independence.”

The reformed primary school curriculum, if approved, will be competency based with focus on continuous formative assessment and the mastery of a curriculum rather than teaching to a test. Along with the decision to abolish the Common Entrance Examination, with students being transferred from primary to secondary education via a built-in appellate mechanism, there will also be the development of individualised education programmes.

Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw said: “We are also looking at ensuring that our teachers can use individualised education plans for those children who are challenged or who need more support and for those who are exceedingly gifted.”

The plan for children with special needs is as follows:

Inclusion of preferred mechanism for teaching and learning.
Appropriate settings created in the regular classroom.
Special attention will be paid to physical facilities, material resources, assistive devices.
Appropriately trained and equipped teachers.
Specialised setting where required.
Special assessment to determine specific disabilities.
Individualised education programmes to guide teaching and learning.
School’s accessibility
Checklist to determine readiness to accommodate students with physical disabilities.

Once consultations with key stakeholders and the public have concluded, the proposals will be presented to Cabinet in January 2024 for approval. If that is granted, then implementation will begin in September 2025. (JC)


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