The OECS/USAID Early Learners Programme: Leaving a Legacy!

OECS/USAID Media release
Friday, October 2, 2020 — After five years of partnering to improve reading levels among early grade readers in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the OECS/USAID Early Learners Programme (ELP) came to an end on September 30, 2020. The OECS/USAID ELP commenced in 2015 in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the total estimated cost of 8.9 million US dollars. Over the five years, the OECS/USAID ELP changed the landscape for early grade reading in the OECS through the development and enhancement of reading instruction based on international best practices and the implementation of other key initiatives. The goal of the OECS/USAID ELP has been the improvement of reading levels in the foundational years of Kindergarten through to Grade three, as research in education highlights the importance of early grade reading to academic success and to life in general.

Each of the six Member States in the ELP program have committed to sustaining the core tenets of Early Grade Reading following the closure of the programme to ensure reading improvement in their countries continues well into the future. To ensure successful transitioning from the project to the in-country programme phase, the Education Development Management Unit (EDMU) within the OECS Commission hosted an important close out meeting on Friday 25th September 2020 with approximately 70 stakeholders. Key participants at the meeting included: Dr. Didacus Jules, the Director General of the OECS Commission, Sisera Simon, Head of the Education Development Management Unit (EDMU) – OECS Commission, Simone Brown, Education Development Officer – USAID, Permanent Secretaries, Chief Education Officers, Members of the OECS/USAID ELP Regional Advisory Group, the National Focal Points, USAID, Members of the Project Steering Committee and the EDMU.

The achievements of the OECS/USAID ELP were showcased with a few achievements being: 3440 teachers participated in professional development, 2966 teachers supported through mentoring and coaching, 3185 early grade classrooms observed and almost 305,000 teaching and learning materials provided to 2305 OECS Classrooms. Other important elements of the meeting included, the lessons learned from the project and the opportunity to garner feedback from stakeholders who were impacted by the implementation of the OECS/USAID ELP. This forum further enabled each Member State to share the plans for their Ministries of Education to sustain and amplify the gains of OECS/USAID ELP. Head of the EDMU, Mrs. Sisera Simon in highlighting the legacy of the OECS/USAID ELP stated that,

“We appreciated the opportunity to ‘hand over the reigns’ of this project to each Member State. We are proud of what we have achieved and believe the project is in good hands. The various stakeholders have seen the benefits of the tenets of OECS/USAID ELP and are committed to continuing to improve early grade reading levels in the OECS going forward.”

The meeting ended with engaging closing remarks by a student beneficiary of the OECS/USAID ELP, Ms. Amiera Serieux from Mon Repos Patience Combined School in Saint Lucia. Amiera led the participants in a pledge to maintain the tenets of ELP and early grade reading, advocating for children to have a supportive reading environment, financial and material resources for reading and reading instruction.

OECS/USAID Early Learners Programme is a Programme within the Education Development Management Unit of the OECS Commission and was established in March 2015 to improve the reading skills of children in the early primary grades with the goal of providing a foundation for improved learning outcomes and enhanced opportunities for students in the six (6) independent Member States of the OECS (Antigua and Barbuda, The Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines). To date the ELP has achieved a number of tangible outputs with over 73,155 learners reached at the Primary level, over 3340 Grades K to 3 teachers supported through job embedded professional development, 3185 early grade classroom lessons observed and 1630 coaching sessions with teachers have been completed by ELP Coordinators. Further, 60 schools across the Member States have received development grants to support reading enhancement projects and 304,552 teaching and learning materials have been provided to 2582 classrooms across the OECS (over 50,000 books). The OECS/USAID ELP will run through to September 2020 continuing to develop and implement impactful initiatives that advance early grade reading throughout the OECS.

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