Letter from Charlottetown

As we enter the New Year we are facing a ‘cyclone bomb’, which apparently is the new name for a big winter storm. We are told to expect rain, freezing rain, ice pellets, and upwards of 20 cms. of snow, all pushed around by 60 to 80 km/hour winds (gusting to 120 at times). Earlier in the fall this would have been called a hurricane, but now it’s a “good old nor-easter!” as people around here say, although ‘cyclone bomb’ has joined ‘polar vortex’ in the weather watcher lexicon.

I am also experiencing my own personal storm. It is now Day 4 of my sabbatical (study) leave, and I’m still trying to get used to not going in to the office every morning. It is a six month leave, until July, and I’m planning on spending it on three specific projects. First, to try and bring some semblance of organization to my home office, which is awash in paper and files and books, many so out of date they are still in boxes from when we moved to PEI in 2008 – ten years ago this summer. So some serious de-cluttering is in order, although every time I start the process I end spending the next half hour reading whatever it is I meant to throw out.

Second, I have a litany of writing projects to complete – articles in various forms; some reviewed and requiring editing, some not quite ready to submit, and some mere germs of ideas scribbled down in first-draft form. There is also a chapter I was supposed to have finished last year, and another which requires a definitive proof read prior to submission, and a draft book manuscript. Lots to keep me busy there, I think, and in the past couple of days I’ve managed a start on one of these, so hopefully the chapter will be not much later than it is already.

I’m also grappling with trying to understand how internationalization as a policy issue has emerged within the realm of education on PEI. I am hoping to explore how this is made manifest through the interaction and impact of local, provincial and federal policy decisions in three specific policy arenas: rurality, population, and environment. If anyone has any suggestions as to how I might show how these three are addressed in the internationalization of post-secondary education within the social context of Prince Edward Island, please let me know!

Third, as regular readers of this Blog will remember, I have agreed to provide some consulting services to a World Bank project being implemented in Kosovo. This is called ESIP, the Education System Improvement Project. I was able to make an introductory visit there last summer, and indeed my last letter was from Prishtina. This fall I was so busy with administrative duties at UPEI that I didn’t really get time to think, let alone write, but I did manage to carve out time to make a second short visit to Kosovo. This has laid the groundwork for what should be an interesting next six months, when I shall be working to support the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) and the State Council of Teacher License (SCTL) in implementing one sub-component of ESIP: Implementation and Improvements to the Teacher Career System. Specifically, I am helping with the conceptualization and development of government policy and educational law related to the three themes of the Teacher Career System: Licensing, Induction, and ongoing Teacher Professional Development.

I am grounding this work on six claims which I have developed, based on reading the research literature, and which I believe should guide the development of all professional development (PD) programs for teachers, irrespective of the stage of the teacher in their career.

  • PD should be linked to both teacher and student learning outcomes
  • PD should be a mix of compulsory and independent activities
  • PD should be available at the individual, school, school cluster, municipality, and national levels
  • PD should have time & resources allocated as required
  • PD facilitators should be adequately trained
  • PD should result in improved student learning

I also think that it is important that a robust system of monitoring and evaluation is established at the same time as the PD system itself is developed, so that the process and the assessment can be linked together in an effective way. Now I’ve just got to convince the MEST personnel and SCTL members that my beliefs are correct!

I find it encouraging to sometimes read back over the old reports from the Kosovo Education Development Project, which I was a part of from 2001-2007. When we started that project, we were dealing with an education system where over 60% of its teachers were ‘unqualified’, where many schools were still showing the visible signs of war damage, and where the curriculum was in disarray. Now, a decade and a half later, all teachers have completed a formal teacher preparation program; most schools have been repaired and upgraded; and a new curriculum has been developed and introduced.

The development of the system has been such that my work is now related to the transition of new teachers, from a teacher preparation program into their first job as a teacher, and to the ongoing professional development of teachers as they continue to improve their skills and expertise. How should new teachers be inducted into the profession? What sort of mentoring might be provided, and by whom? Who would train the mentors? What are the professional development needs of teachers at different points in their careers? Who will provide such training? Who will determine the content, who will train the trainers? And, of course, if teachers complete various professional development programs, how does this impact their status as a licenced teacher? Do they move up a level? If so, is there a salary bump as a result and, has the Ministry of Finance taken this possibility into its budget plans?

These are indeed pleasant problems to have, compared with where things were before. It illustrates how education systems can develop along the post-conflict continuum, and reassures me that we made a good decision to bring Afghan educators to Pristina as part of TCAP – the Teacher Certification and Accreditation of Teacher Training Institutions in Afghanistan Project. They were able to see then how things had evolved over a decade, and I wish I had the funding to bring them back now, to see how things have continued to evolve in Kosovo even as the situation in Afghanistan appears to be stuck in a quagmire. If nothing else, the experience would bring hope that an alternate future might exist.

January 4, 2018

One thought on “Letter from Charlottetown

  1. Hi Tim

    I enjoyed reading this letter. It brings back memories of the work we did in 2010-2012 with EU-SWAp Project. Attached is a list of some MEST-Published and Authorised work, printed and distributed to every school to assist educators in implementing the new curriculum.

    Cheers, Tom Gougeon


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