by Linda Straker
By 2019, students between the ages of 5 and 8 in Grenada and the other OECS member states are expected to be improved readers and writers as a result of an initiative targeting pupils who are presently in kindergarten through grade 3 in both private and public schools.
Called the Early Learners Programme, it is an interactive learning activity that allows a student to use almost all, if not all his or her senses. “This balanced approach to reading can engage and nurture learns in a holistic way,” said Minister for Implementation Emmalin Pierre when she spoke at the launch of the programme which took place in Grenada on Friday.
“We believe that it will provide the opportunity to lay a good foundation at this most impressionable and absorbent stage of a child’s life,” she added.
Pierre who is a former teacher was representing Education Minister Simon Stiell. She said that by raising the reading level of students in the lower grades, we also set the wheels in motion for lifelong learning. “It is our hope that through this initiative and many more, we will eradicate some of the major problems that are presently plaguing the education system here in Grenada and by extension the OECS sub-region,” she said.
The ELP involves using regular books but provides for teachers to use various interactive methods that can encourage students to use creative techniques to boost their reading and writing skills. Data gathering during the pilot stage has shown that within the OECS only 20% of the students can read to their age ability.
“The advent of ELP brings fresh hope, the ELP brings a whole new aura to the teaching profession and by extension our education system. With this initiative, we are able to influence the key areas of our education network,” she said while explaining that the components with which this programme is comprised speak to the possibility of change or enhancement in all the areas that are involved in the educational sphere.
A project of the OECS Commission and USAID, this 4-year US$9 million project began its implementation stages in 2015.
Stephen Frahm, principal officer at the US Embassy in Grenada said that the program will benefit schools, teachers and students and aims to increase primary level student reading performance. “Literacy is without a doubt vital to creating a thriving society where young people have the opportunity to reach their highest potential academically, socially and vocationally. The evidence shows that increased literacy reduces secondary school dropout rates and decreases the incidence of higher risk behaviour among youth,” he said.
To date, under the ELP pilot, 86 schools have benefitted from the extensive training and coaching. There is an ELP coordinator in each participating territory. For the 2017-2018 school year, the programme is expected to be expanded to 210 additional schools across the sub-region. As a result of adding more schools, 2025 teacher and over 24,000 students will benefit from the programme.