Brock’s expertise in teacher education is helping to make classrooms in the Caribbean more inclusive.
The University is in its third phase of a progressive series of initiatives, which began in 2021, that provide professional development opportunities overseas.
The current phase includes a partnership between Brock and the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Under the latest agreement, the project is facilitating capacity development for inclusive education in St. Vincent.
Funded by the World Bank, the initiative is part of the country’s larger Human Development Service Delivery (HDSD) project, which is designed to improve quality-of-service delivery in education, efficiency of social protection systems and effectiveness of labour market systems.
When completed, the initiative will implement inclusive teaching practices and physical accommodations at all primary and secondary schools on the island, allowing students from segregated schools to reintegrate into the mainstream school system with their peers.
“We know through inclusive practices that kids in highly inclusive settings, regardless of their unique learning needs, benefit from the opportunity to see a broad range of learning, movement and identity from their peers,” says Sheila Bennett, Professor Emerita in Brock’s Faculty of Education and one of the experts on the project team.
In recent years, St. Vincent has made strides in improving and expanding basic education, providing greater opportunities for children to access primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The country’s Ministry of Education has identified inclusion as a priority, aiming to evolve its education system to foster successful personal and professional relationships for all students.
“The inclusion project is a game changer,” says Maureen Webber, HDSD Project Co-ordinator for the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “It puts students with disabilities in a better position to experience acceptance.”
The pilot began in late 2022 on the island of Bequia and expects to see all students studying together in mainstream schools for the 2023-24 school year.
The project team, including staff from Brock International and experts from Brock’s Faculty of Education and St. Clair College in Windsor, have met virtually and on the ground with teachers, students, parents and school leaders to assess needs and develop a tailored training approach that supports improved outcomes relevant to the region.
The project will continue with educator training and continued support will be offered to parents and teachers who may need additional assistance with lesson plans, behaviour management and learning strategies as students begin their transition into mainstream environments.
Webber believes that, with time, teachers will adopt a new tradition of teaching that embraces inclusive practices, and that the Brock team and the strengthening of educators in Bequia has set the stage for full inclusion.
The success of Brock’s similar projects in Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe and the Caribbean inspired the agreement that has seen the University lead the project.
Meaghan Rusnell, Brock’s Associate Vice-President, Government, Community and International Relations, says projects like the one in St. Vincent are valuable for the University’s international initiatives moving forward.
“Partnerships like these highlight the importance of collaboration between educational institutions and policy-makers to improve education systems, and they play a dual role in our strategic direction,” says Rusnell. “Brock’s expertise has a global audience, and at the same time, we’re living our values and mobilizing our knowledge to help provide children everywhere with access to quality education.”
Brock University partners with communities worldwide and looks to extend its global reach through Brock International’s forthcoming strategic plan. To learn more about the University’s international initiatives, visit brocku.ca/international