We need an educational REVOLUTION in Barbados

The African Heritage Foundation (AHF) is working on the long term implementation of an educational project that will create more awareness on Africa, its people, their struggles for liberation over the past 500 years, their glorious history that predates the slave trade and finally the economic opportunities that will be afforded to us as that continent develops. There’s quite a lot to this programme and it will require time, commitment and support . Our efforts to achieve greater access to Afrocentric educational modules must go hand-in-hand with a renewed focus on education quality. In other words, access with progress.

At the AHF, we have put a huge focus on measuring how what we do helps to improve learning outcomes. It’s something Pan Africanist have been talking about for many years, and it’s a commitment and sacrifice that  our organization is totally dedicated to. We are of the strong opinion that  everyone in education should seek to measure the effect of their impact on their students.  The consequences are too important not to do so. 

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The challenge for the AHF is one that I expect resonates with many other organisations around the world. We may each describe it a little differently, and the outcome will be different, but the equation is the same.

How can we do more and better? In our case, how can we increase the amount of really deep, high value learning in our societies at minimal total cost?

This is, at heart, a civil rights issue. In Barbados, we know that the median hourly wage of workers who can make complex inferences and evaluate subtle truths in written texts is 60% higher than those who cannot. Yet many Barbadian students leaving our secondary schools are not proficient in reading. When you consider estimations of  the amount of people that need to be lifted out of poverty on the island, the amount of unemployed or under employed youth and the need for all students in low-income families and communities to complete school with good reading, and critical thinking skills, the necessity “to do more” is stark.

Barbados schools 2

If this mission of the AHF may seem a little ambitious, remember this. If every class in every school of the island participates in our Afrocentric educational programmes, we could get closer to higher performance results and we would comfortably achieve the goal of increasing learning outcomes.

This is the challenge: how can we help to replicate educational excellence at scale? At the African Heritage Foundation, when we ask ourselves that question, one of the things we think about is efficacy.

Efficacy is a deceptively simple but incredibly powerful idea – that every project and programme we implement be measured and judged by the learning outcomes and practical assistance it helps to achieve.

Historically, our governments put most of their focus on measuring inputs into education; class sizes, money invested, buildings etc . We need to put an even greater focus on what these inputs produce; for example, what percentage of young people leaving school are able to read and write sufficiently for a career, college or entrepreneurship?

This sort of question now defines what we do as an organisation each and every day. Every decision, every process, every investment we now make within the AHF is driven by a focus on outcomes. If we can’t clearly see how a new project or programme will drive up learning outcomes, we won’t invest in it.

Barbados schools 3

We know we’re only responsible for a few small parts of the education system, and that others will measure outcomes in their own ways. We welcome that. Great learning is always a partnership – between student, teacher, parent, and institutions’ large and small. And frankly, if we are serious about that goal of increasing learning outcomes, and raising African awareness in our students there’s no shortage of work to go around.

This is one of the most important socioeconomic issues in this time – how to make better more holistic and Afrocentric education more accessible and affordable for far more people around the island. To put it another way, how to get a far better return on the money and time we spend each year on education?

The novelist, William Boyd, once wrote: “The last thing we learn about ourselves is our effect.” We have the chance, as a global  community who collectively knows the value of Afrocentric education, to work together, to great effect and measure how successful we are in making good education more accessible and affordable for our school students here in Barbados and people around the world.

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