Unesco IBE experts mission calls on President Faure |02 August 2019
• Holds workshops with education officials
A mission from the Unesco International Bureau of Education led by its director Dr Mmantsetsa Marope yesterday called on President Danny Faure at State House to brief him on the work underway to strengthen the education system to improve pupils’ performances.
The group of education experts, who are on a five-day mission here, was accompanied to State House by the Minister for Education and Human resource Development Jeanne Simeon.
Speaking to the press at the end of the meeting, Minister Simeon said the experts of the Unesco IBE mission are in the country to follow up on the work started with the education ministry some two years ago to review, evaluate and strengthen the education system. It consists of periodical visits to support the ministry, to assess its progress in various areas namely curriculum, assessment, research in teacher education and continuous professional development, early childhood, among others.
Minister Simeon said the meeting with President Faure was an opportunity to brief him on the work being done and progress made as well as the support the ministry is receiving from Unesco IBE.
“The discussion focused on the support and assistance we are receiving and the implementation phase being planned in the schools where preparations are underway for the roll out,” Minister Simeon explained.
“We also discussed the changes and improvements expected in the pupils’ learning outcomes as all the work and programmes being undertaken with the Unesco IBE are geared towards improving pupils’ performances and results firstly at primary education level,” Minister Simeon stressed.
She went on to note that work is also being done to prepare pupils for the transition to secondary level.
Dr Marope for her part has described our education system as among the best in the SADC region but with quite a long way to go and more work to be done to reach the top.
“It is not time to clap yet but with all the work done Seychelles has managed to become the best practice country in early childhood care and education, and there is no reason why it cannot be a best practice country in general education in terms of quality and relevance to development,” affirmed Dr Marope.
She noted that Seychelles has a very good education platform with very experienced and committed technical experts, lots of potential so there is no reason why we cannot reach best practice level.
She went on to add that some of the best IBE experts are working with a strong team at the ministry here and she expressed great optimism for the future. But Dr Marope stressed on the need for the performance of Seychellois pupils in the international assessments to improve.
“It is a lot of work, it is no doubt a high challenge, but it can be achieved,” Dr Marope stated.
During its working mission the group of experts conducted several review and working group sessions with officials of the education ministry. The sessions focused on key areas such as curriculum, teacher education and continuous professional development, assessment, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and early childhood education. On their third day yesterday, the experts met Minister Simeon for a debriefing session. Also in attendance were various officials from the ministry.
John Lesperance, special advisor at the ministry and project manager, explained that the project to implement a competency-based approach in primary schools has been ongoing for years with the Unesco undertaking a number of missions to Seychelles.
The missions are organised on a regular basis every three months.
“Unesco is here firstly to build the capacity of local educators. In these sessions we are, for instance, reviewing the curriculum framework ensuring that it is actually addressing essential elements which will facilitate the competency-based approach in schools,” Mr Lesperance noted.
“We are also looking at how we can implement evaluations so as to start measuring children based on their competences rather than using the traditional manner.”
The competency-based approach style of teaching is already being implemented in primary schools as of this year.
Mr Lesperance noted that the focus has been in implementing competency-based approach in primary instead of secondary school because it is important to start at the root of the education system before bringing the same approach to secondary level.
“The primary students would already have had an experience in the competency-based approach system so it would be easier for them to adapt to it in secondary when they move up. But to implement the system right now at secondary level would cause some confusion.”
Professor Paul Howard-Jones, expert in neuroscience and education, was tasked with working with students at the Seychelles Institute of Teacher Education (Site) to equip them with the tools necessary to teach using competency-based approach.
“We have been trying to introduce the scientific understandings emerging about how the brain learns and we are putting that into teacher education, so that teachers are going to know how their students learn and base their pedagogies on scientific principles and understandings,” Dr Howard-Jones expressed.
“Schools around the world are not achieving what they should be achieving, and a large part of that is because teachers are not able to apply what we know about how learning occurs.”
Britte Cheng, Unesco expert in STEM, noted that her working sessions focused on how best to supplement the science and mathematics competency-based curriculum with STEM activities and support teachers in getting students engaged in STEM.
“It is a very important set of skills and knowledge for students to have, not just for their own future but for the future of the country in the decades to come. The main challenge in Seychelles is that STEM is new, both for your curriculum and for your teachers, and it also draws on multiple domains of knowledge and it is very difficult for any teacher or student to think about both science and technology and mathematics in solving authentic problems.”
Nonetheless Dr Cheng remarked that there is a thirst of knowledge from the Seychelles side to take on innovative ideas and hence she notes no barriers towards the proper implementation of this programme.