In the Caribbean, available data shows that nearly 7 million learners in 23 countries and more than 91 000 teachers are affected by school closures due to COVID-19.
In response to the disruption of the Caribbean education system, UNESCO, Blackboard and the Caribbean Centre for Educational Planning (CCEP) at the University of the West Indies launched the Education response to Covid-19: Distance Learning and Teacher Training Strategies in the Caribbean SIDS in January 2021 with the aim to train 10 000 teachers in the Caribbean SIDS in the use of online education tools, resources and interactive platforms to effectively engage students through online learning.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, distance education has been a challenge for many teachers. Reasons include poor or no connectivity, lack of access to devices and online educational resources, and the challenge of moving quickly from the traditional classroom to an online environment.
Through UNESCO's Global Education Coalition, a multi-sectoral education coalition to protect the right to education during COVID-19, this programme is made possible with financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). With the support of UNICEF Jamaica, 6000 teachers can be trained in Jamaica.
The programme builds on the experience of the 2020 pilot initiative to enhance the capacity of teacher trainers, teachers and education leaders in digital literacy and blended learning solutions through a coordinated regional approach to develop, deliver and maintain quality online learning resources.
In 2020, UNESCO and Blackboard trained 90 teachers in online skills development for distance education in Caribbean SIDS through the pilot project "Professional Development for Teachers for Blended Learning and Online Strategies". In an intensive four-week online training course led by Blackboard, teachers acquired digital literacy competencies in basic computer skills and online tools and methods, and were trained in the blended modality, which includes face-to-face teaching.
After successful completion of the course, the teachers were certified as "master trainers". This enables them to use distance learning methods to provide quality and inclusive education to their students. 40 of these master trainers from the pilot project are leading the Distance Learning and Teacher Training Strategies in the Caribbean SIDS to strengthen professional capacity for online teaching of teachers in the Caribbean in three cohorts from June to November 2021.
The teacher training has a particular focus on methods to ensure that the most vulnerable girls, boys and adolescents are not left behind in their learning and that possible gender differences are taken into account in distance learning opportunities.