Coming out of two consultations specifically targeting Saint Lucian teachers, the OECS public education country mission team says it is heartened by the level of interest, investment and some solid recommendations made by the island’s educators.
The Economic Union which came into force in January 2011 introduces a further deepening of the OECS integration process upon which the nine member states embarked some 32 years ago. Among other benefits and opportunities, OECS Economic Union brings into effect one single economic and financial space, no restrictions on length of stay and the removal of work permit requirements for citizens of member states as they move.
In citing the significance of the removal of borders to the dynamics of the OECS labour market, the island’s teachers see a compelling need to introduce teaching on OECS integration from a much earlier age and stage in the curriculum. Teachers are of the view that this teaching should go beyond Social Studies, but should also be linked to identity in terms of how the region’s children understand themselves and their rights as nationals of Member States and citizens of the OECS.
According to a cohort of teachers from the south, Regional Integration is taught towards the end of the school year, which does not allow for enough time and significance, given the importance of the Integration process both in terms of the region’s unfolding history and its socio-economic development.
In that regard, teachers have issued a call for the development of age specific teaching toolkits to better equip educators to teach on the subject. To complement and reinforce this learning, teachers called for more coherence and greater mass appeal in media driven marketing communication on integration and the economic union, suitable to excite all citizens – children and adults, help them track each milestone and connect the dots between these milestones and the benefits they enjoy as a result of the Integration process.
Ambassador to the OECS and Caricom H.E. Dr. June Soomer expressed elation at the tone of the discourse with teachers, in view of the priority focus she has given to the issue of Integration and the curriculum within her work programme as Saint Lucia’s OECS Commissioner.
These sentiments were echoed by Coordinator of the Regional Integration Unit at the OECS Secretariat ElmaGene Isaac, who leads on the six-member public education country missions.
“These recommendations excite us because we are discovering that the very initiatives we are currently working on rolling out are occupying the minds of those who will have a lead role to play in delivering them. The OECS has completed an education strategy which in great part addresses these very critical matters,” she said, indicating that citizens will begin to become more acquainted with the pivotal role the OECS plays in driving trade and business competitiveness, market and social reforms, policy and process harmonization, health, environmental sustainability and education.
The Saint Lucia country mission ran from Tuesday November 26 to Thursday November 28, following similar activities in Dominica, St. Vincent & The Grenadines and St. Kitts & Nevis. Similar missions to Grenada and Montserrat are slated for the New Year. Funded under the 10th European Development Fund, this round of public education also included two Spokespersons training workshops for close to fifty representatives of public sector agencies, state media and private sector organizations from the OECS.