Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Updating the Montserrat CEO on Cayman Islands transformation

Ms Kathleen Greenaway, Chief Education Officer of Montserrat
How far we have travelled in education transformation, in such a short space of time, was really brought home to me again over the past two days as I visted schools and worked with the Chief Education Officer of Montserrat; Ms Kathleen Greenaway.

Faced with the ongoing consequences of the volcano disaster and the huge impact on the lives of islanders, education reform has not necessarily been the priority for many people. As we considered the transformation journey that the Cayman Islands has undertaken, I was pleased to be able to reinforce the fact that many of the changes we have undertaken come at little or no cost.

The focus of the student being at the centre of the education service, and improving teaching and learning to give them the skills they need to be global citizens, can be undertaken by anyone.

The cost of the many new 21st century facilities we are building really is a bonus that will enhance the learning process but is NOT the cause for new learning styles. Many people seem to get confused by this concept!

In several blog posts and media articles recently I have noticed teachers and, even more embarrassingly, headteachers note that they cannot wait to get into their new buildings so that they can start to learn to use more exciting teaching techniques. What they actually need to be doing is learning to develop a whole range of teaching skills now so that they are totally confident in using them whatever the facility opportunities or limitations. The building does not cause good teaching and learning but it can enhance it.

There is some talk of the new 'Schools of the Future' not working - whatever that means. It could well mean that the new facilities don't let people keep doing the "same old same old", which can only be good!.
In many cases the whole design and build process has been done in total isolation of students and staff, apart from vague images. The actual professional development needed for all adults working in new spaces (not just teachers) to achieve 21st century learning should start now.
For those people who are lucky enough to get new facilities - the professional development must start immediately the concepts are considered and have a generous enough budget to facilitate the opportunities for all. The financial figure will still be minimal when compared to the cost of the building. Failure to prioritise this will result in the new facility failing to achieve its potential for the students - who must be the priority. People would be crazy not to focus on this aspect!

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