Literacy Donation to St. Vincent and the Grenadines Will Make An Impact According to Ministry Officials
At the end of February 2008 the island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) officially distributed its first GLP consignment of books and literacy support materials.
The outcome of nearly two years of discussions between The Global Literacy Project and the Education Project Management Unit of SVG, the donation was in response to a troubling trend where teaching professionals were seeing reading failure in schools as early as kindergarten; a trend that was even more compounded as children moved through the education system.
SVG's Minister of Education, the Hon. Girlyn Miguel stressed the timeliness and usefulness of the materials.
Challenging Illiteracy in SVG
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Education Planning Unit notes that many educators have observed that students at all levels in the island’s school system experience severe difficulty in reading.
In April/May 2005 the Ministry of Education introduced a reading assessment as a strategy to understand the literacy profiles of enrolled students.
An analysis of the Grade 6 Reading Assessment 2005 revealed that:
- Reading failure in schools can be seen as early as Kindergarten, and is compounded as children move through the education system.
- Over sixty (60%) of the students are two years behind their chronological age and are therefore not functionally literate.
A national literacy survey (2002) had also revealed limited literacy competencies of persons with only a primary education. The survey found that only 67.3% of persons who have a primary education can demonstrate basic literacy competencies.
The Crisis Years and the Rural/Urban Gap
Durbrow et al. (2002) in research published as “Diverging academic paths in rural Caribbean village children: Predicting secondary school entrance from the St Vincent Child Study,” found that children’s achievement, academic, behavior problems, and cognitive abilities as early as age 8 could predict later examination success or failure for Vincentian children. The results of this research suggested that children’s academic paths were well established by at least age 8 (Grade 3) and that children diverged academically and cognitively over the primary school years. As such they recommended that interventions designed to reduce the rural/urban gap in secondary school admissions may be more effective if they started by age 8.
The Response So Far By the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Government
The 2002 national literacy survey found a strong correlation between reading habits and literacy competencies; a consistently higher level of literacy competence was found among those who read frequently as compared with those who seldom read. The SVG government through its Ministry of Education embarked on an aggressive reading and writing intervention where they reached out for support from the European Union, GLP and other potential partners for resource support. The SVG government also invested in learning resource centers (LRCs) throughout the nation. The expectation is that a literacy enrichment and support program will meet the following objectives:
- increase levels of literacy substantially from baseline
- increase the provision of books and learning materials, including ICT
- increase management efficiency by encouraging home/school partnerships.
This proactive intervention by the SVG government has seen a dramatic turn around in performance throughout the island with the results of the 2007 Grade 6 Reading Assessment showing a marked improvement in reading abilities. Some 58.6% of Grade 6 students are now reading at or above above the Grade 6 Level.
However, stocking the learning resource centers with educational materials will undoubtedly prove to be a challenge. The central reason for this being the high cost of appropriate, quality literacy materials. As an example: to order a set of textbooks (1 set = Reading text + grammar book + practice book) to teach a 20 student class can easily cost USD$400.00 or more, which translates to XCD$1080.00 in local currency.