Early Learners Programme (ELP) to Improve Reading Levels Regionally

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The Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development and the Environment is hosting an OECS/USAID Early Learners Programme (ELP) National Focal Points and Coordinators Training Workshop, at the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort, in Grand Anse, St. George, from Monday, June 19 to Friday, June 23.

Rafer Gordon, ELP Reading Specialist, at the OECS Education Development Management Unit, said, “This is the second time they’re being trained, as a group, to go back and provide professional development support to teachers.”

The workshop, which began with an opening ceremony on Monday June 19, is expected to equip Early Learners Programme coordinators and focal points to train and support teachers, to enhance the teaching of reading, across the Eastern Caribbean. The programme targets students from Kindergarten to Grade 3.

Jacqueline Lewis-Bassue, ELP National Focal Point in St. Kitts & Nevis, said, “I think we really needed that. It was very, very timely and I think it has done wonders across the region and it will continue to do wonders for us, here in the OECS.”

The Early Learners Programme is funded by USAID and is being implemented in Antigua, St. Kitts & Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada. The professional development support began in January 2017 and the OECS unit is collaborating with chief education officers in the various ministries of education to ensure the smooth implementation of the programme and facilitate required policy amendments.

“We’re in June and in that short space of time, we are already receiving reports, along with evidence, that teachers are beginning to change their practice,” Gordon said.

Edmira Walker, ELP Coordinator from St. Vincent & The Grenadines, noted that “For a number of years we’ve been having so many reading problems in our schools and the ELP has directly, or is directly, addressing those problems.”

Gordon is pleased with the progress made. He said, “We’re getting reports from principals that teachers are much more enthused about their teaching. They’re much more energetic and we could see evidence of that in their planning and in the way they conduct their lessons, in the research that they’re doing, in their meetings with each other and in the fact that they’re now supporting each other in professional learning communities.”

The Early Learners Programme programme focuses on seven components which are language policy; the teacher training programme; teacher professional development; student assessment; teacher learning resources; the reading curriculum component and school management.

Natalie Johnson, ELP Project Coordinator with the OECS Education Development Management Unit, explained that “Dominica and St. Lucia, because of their French-Creole influence their focus will be slightly different, because of that variation with respect to language.”

The programme will cater to ‘home language’ being used to facilitate student’s mastery of formal English Language reading skills.

Grenada’s ELP Coordinator, Natalie Pierre, said, “The teachers are welcoming the support. They are welcoming that we are at the same level with them. We are going out there – giving them assistance – giving them what they need, giving them guidelines. They are able to take risks, so they feel more comfortable attempting the strategies in a non –threatening situation.”

Lois Bristol, Dominican ELP Coordinator and Learning Support Advisor, also reported similar gains.

“It’s providing us with those strategies, those opportunities, to intervene on behalf of our students who really need that support,” Bristol said.

The implementation of the Early Learner Programme is from March 2015 to March 2019.

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