Seth Davis, Communications Officer, Community Systems Foundation
As highlighted in its Human Resource Development Strategy 2011-2016, the Barbados government seeks to create “a demand-driven education and training programme that incorporates…appropriate strategic measures to meet the needs of marginalized youth”. While Barbados Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training (METI) has implemented an Education Management Information System (EMIS) in the past, it faced difficulties reaching its objectives due to the limited capacities of the system. Most notably, the prior system was unable to display disaggregated information of pupils and education personnel, which significantly reduced the Ministry’s ability to track and assist at-risk and marginalized youth.
To help accurately account for all students, Barbados is now implementing the OpenEMIS toolkit nationally to ensure the needs of all students are met and to collect and analyze more granular data at all levels. To support this effort, the METI brought together 60 Information Technology Coordinators (ITCs) in charge of providing the future support to schools on OpenEMIS along with a team of local and international experts to build national capacity on in preparation for the rollout of the system.
Interviewed during the training, Mr. André Hinds, the School Liaison Officer for Information Technology and Quality Assurance in the Unit Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training,emphasized that OpenEMIS can help overcome previous challenges. He noted that this new EMIS toolkit can notably help decrease national data gaps and enable Barbados to provide up-to-date, accurate and reportable education data to UNESCO, both of which have been challenging due to the previous EMIS’ capacity.
While transitioning to a new EMIS was initially perceived as a challenge for some of the Ministry personnel and ITCs, hands-on learning sessions enabled participants to change their views and see how OpenEMIS tools could be used to improve national capacities in the areas of education data collection, analysis and dissemination.
Following training sessions, participants discussed how OpenEMIS could impact schools throughout Barbados. In a comment about previous reporting mechanisms, Gloria Green, an ITC at St. Leonard’s Boys Secondary School, noted that OpenEMIS will allow for “uniformity and [the] standardization [of] Barbados’ educational system.” As a means to strengthen national transparency and accountability, she also stated that OpenEMIS gives Barbados a way to “provide real-time, accurate data that can be accessed by all interested persons.”
Another participant at the training, Randolph Clarke, an ITC at Harrison College in Barbados, highlighted that, “[Barbadians] have been without an Education Management Information System for some time.” After working hands-on with the OpenEMIS toolkit and reflecting on the trainings, he believes that “the impact of the OpenEMIS software should be tremendous for Barbados.”