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Educator finds her calling abroad


Educator finds her calling abroad

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KNOWN AS AN EDUCATOR and past president of the National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations of Barbados, Barbadian Rhonda Blackman-Smith is expanding her educational footprint.

She is now leading a reform push in the Turks and Caicos Islands where she serves as curriculum development officer.

It’s a post she is comfortable with, having been a course developer as well as an e-tutor at the University of the West Indies Open Campus during her more than 23-year career in education.

Blackman-Smith, a national development scholar and holder of a master’s degree, did not feel her skills were being effectively and efficiently utilised in Barbados.

The educator and former NATION columnist said she was very pleased with what she had been able to accomplish since moving to the British territory in January 2016, one which had been vacant for some time.

“It has been dynamic and awesome experience for me being in a new environment, a different culture and able to effect change at a significant level. I am spearheading curriculum reform in the island from kindergarten right through to Form 3 in the high school.

“I’m pleased to say that I was well received. My knowledge was very valued. I decided to introduce a new paradigm to the island because it was more teacher-centred. I felt we could have a more child-centred focus so I developed a conceptual framework for the island, for overall reform and for the early childhood reform.”

With the support of a team, the Barbadian said she had already been able to complete work on the core subjects – science, mathematics, language arts and social studies – covering reception to Class 1.

Side by side with this was the implementation of a pilot programme in five schools, which was being monitored and evaluated.

The aim, Blackman explained, was to have a full curriculum roll out this September at all public primary schools and some private institutions.

“Did it meet some resistance? A little because people are generally hesitant to embrace change, but it is how you bring about that change. I’m very pleased to say that the results, so far, have been very, very good,” said Blackman-Smith, as she recalled holding numerous consultations ahead of the changes.

“For me, what is very rewarding is the fact that I can impart knowledge. I can already see a transformation in our classroom learning environment, in teaching methodologies and strategies. I can see our teachers being more empowered. I would want to say that I was able to take the knowledge I have from Barbados and share it with another country and I’m very happy.”

A strong focus was the creation of an inclusive learning environment, one which catered to children with disabilities, in line with the government’s own policy.

Attention was also paid to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), together with art, tourism and hospitality studies, while the science curriculum incorporated information about the coral reefs as the Turks and Caicos is known for having one of the world’s coral largest systems.

The overall aim, explained the educator, was to development well-rounded citizens.

“We believe that once we start with STEM education from the early years, the children would be able to transfer that knowledge and those skills in whatever course of study they want to pursue later on. I wanted to develop a curriculum that was broad, balanced, relevant and coherent, that would underscore the diversity of the students and allow them to identify with the Turks and Caicos identity.”

Even while undertaking that transformative work, Blackman is pursuing her PhD online in higher education.

Though challenging, she said she had been able to handle the workload with the support of her husband.

As for the future, the Barbadian does not know whether her work will take her back home or further afield.

Whatever happens, she remains steadfast that her ultimate aim is to effect positive change. (WILLCOMM)