Post-COVID learning gaps challenging educators

Principals in Barbados and the rest of the region are now faced with coming up with innovative ways to fill the learning gaps coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s the word from the president of the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools, Stephen Jackman, who says students entering secondary schools now have completely different expectations than before the pandemic.

He made those comments while giving welcoming remarks at the start of the Caribbean Association of Principals of Secondary Schools (CAPSS) 29th biennial conference at the Accra Beach Hotel this morning.

“Since 2022 we have been back in the physical classroom, facing new adjustments. The experience changed not only us, but our clientele,” he told the large gathering.

“Our students now come to us with greater expectations of what education can be. We must also face the reality that our divergence of circumstances has meant that learning gaps have become greater.”

“As leaders, we must again be at the forefront of the identification of strategies to redress this and implement them in a manner that suits our individual plants. The challenges faced have shown us that we have to re-imagine what education must be if we are to continue to drive regional progress and development,” the principal of Frederick Smith Secondary School added.

Jackman said principals had plenty to look back on and to find ways of responding to a student body in a post-pandemic environment.

“We were last physically together in 2019, and so much has occurred since then. The measured walk that we were taking into education technology became a mad scramble, as we responded to a worldwide pandemic that caused a new modality for schooling.”

He said it was important to note there were also interruptions and adjustments in the provision of education across the region caused by natural events that bore the unmistakable feature of climate change. “We as principals found ourselves at the centre of these changes. Our practice became typified by the mantra, adjust, adapt and overcome. All of our students, parents and teachers looked to us for assurance and direction. We had to be the calm hands at the rudder.

“We adapted and learned how to manage schools from remote locations. We adjusted learning to communicate with our staff, parents, the ministry and various stakeholders in the digital space. We overcame, by forming a community of practice and staged our 2021 conference totally online.”

He said the best of what had served educators in the past must be retained, but at the same time, principals must embrace new technologies, learning styles and instructional strategies.

In addition, Jackman believes principals also need to re-tool themselves, not only to informational technology and other innovations but to become flexible and responsive leaders who could reposition people in emerging economic activity.

“We have to devise more equitable systems that provide equal opportunity for all the students we service,” he said while noting that the reform of education would require re-imagining education by all regional stakeholders. (BA)

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