On September 15, the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill campus launched an initiative to boost education in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. The initiative, aptly named, RISE Caribbean – the Research Initiative for Supporting Education in the Caribbean, is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through a grant of US$3.6 million, with counterpart contributions of US$3 from the Campus.

The initiative aims to address the shortage of education research data in the region which can be used to inform educational planning, policy, and practice. To further address this shortage, a key aspect of RISE Caribbean is the establishment of the Caribbean Educational Research Centre (CERC) in the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the Cave Hill campus. The Centre will have offices in the old Mutual Building in Bridgetown.

The CERC, in partnership with the University of South Florida, and the Eastern Caribbean Joint Board of Teacher Education, will investigate issues affecting education in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. One of the main pillars of the CERC is to provide the education sector with research evidence to support planning, policy making and practice. It is expected that evidence-based decisions will contribute to improvements in educational outcomes among primary and secondary school students across the region.

Discussing the RISE Caribbean initiative, Professor Landis noted, “High quality data and research is the substrate for good decision making.  The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, is very pleased to be partnering with USAID to undertake the necessary research in the OECS to underpin educational policy and planning for the benefit of primary and secondary schools in the region.

Commenting at the launch, U.S. Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the OECS, Linda Taglialatela said, “RISE Caribbean focuses on basic education themes and builds on the work that the United States supported under the Early Learners Program, or ELP, to train teachers and provide materials to improve literacy in the OECS region.” The Ambassador added that she looks forward to seeing how the project outcomes will help “position countries to increase access to quality education that is safe, relevant, and promotes the social well-being of vulnerable youth.”

Barbados Minister of Education, the Hon. Santia Bradshaw stated at the launch, “We are extremely grateful for the funding grant by USAID and the University of the West Indies for the research initiative supporting education in the Caribbean. This signifies a step in the right direction as we move toward a data driven education reform system.” She went on to note that, “In effect the research conducted has the potential to positively impact the lives of approximately 1,500 leaders of education, 10,000 teachers, and 200,000 students.”

Other guest speakers included Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS Commission, and Professor Kiki Caruson, Interim Vice President, University of South Florida (USF) World, which is a partnering institution to the initiative. Other stakeholders in education across the Eastern Caribbean and Barbados also attended virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.