A Caribbean nation determined to address long-standing inequities in its education system is building a long-term national reform program on comprehensive research developed by an EDC team. The reform effort, led by the education ministry, aims to increase educational access and quality in Trinidad and Tobago.
A team led by EDC’s Costanza Eggers-Piérola recently completed a study of early childhood care and education in Trinidad and Tobago to support the ministry’s vision of high-quality, accessible services for all young children. “Their plan is ambitious, and getting there is a complex process,” she says.
The team of researchers visited 36 of Trinidad and Tobago’s more than 900 preschool centers, conducting a series of interviews with officials, teachers, and others involved in the reform effort. They inquired about several aspects of the education system, including how early childhood education aligns with the primary system and the training of early childhood teachers.
“We examined the reform, its aims, existing needs, teacher education and skills, and best practices—many elements that lead to a quality educational system,” explains Eggers-Piérola.
Support for change
The study offers critical information and next steps for the reform effort. The team’s recommendations addressed three areas: professional development of existing teachers, data management systems to track the progress of both students and teachers, and outreach to parents.
“The educational system has been very teacher-directed there, and that’s what parents expect,” says Eggers-Piérola. “As Trinidad and Tobago moves to more student-centered and project-based learning to develop students’ critical-thinking skills, this transition requires parental buy-in.”
Eggers-Piérola and her colleagues also recommend supporting and enhancing early intervention efforts. She says, “We found teachers lack skills to distinguish children with behavior problems, academically challenged children, and those who are simply reacting to a teacher-directed method. So figuring out what needs—and special needs—the children have is critical.”
Originally published on July 25, 2008