Measures to correct a deficit in numeracy skills among primary school students, was among the notable achievements of the Minister of Education, Rev. Hon. Ronald Thwaites, in his first 100 days in office.
The deficiencies were evident from the results of the 2010/2011 Grade Four Numeracy Test, which was administered in June 2011.
Of the 45, 769 students from public and private primary schools across the island, who sat the exam last year, 49 per cent of the candidates, achieved mastery, while 29 per cent achieved almost mastery, and approximately 22 per cent, non-mastery.
This compares to 41 per cent mastery, 32 per cent achieved almost mastery and 27 per cent, non-mastery, among the 46, 336 students, who took the exam in 2009/2010.
The Education Minister, while welcoming the eight percentage point increase in passes from the previous year said he was not totally satisfied with the results.
He said that the Ministry of Education (MOE) was laying the foundation to correct the apparent deficit in numeracy skills among primary school students.
Mr. Thwaites said the government would be seeking to implement a number of remedial steps to improve the numeracy and literacy skill levels of students, pointing out that these steps will be embedded in the normal education system as of September this year.
He said the MoE has completed the framework for the National Comprehensive Numeracy Programme, which is to be implemented in primary schools across the island for the 2012/2013 academic year.
The programme will focus mainly on early numeracy, which is for three to five years old, lower primary – grades one to three and upper primary – grades four to six, the Minister informed.
Under the project, emphasis will be placed on a three-pronged system, which includes conceptual understanding, procedural fluency and problem solving.
Additionally, throughout his first few days in office, the Education Minister toured schools, which have been branded with a “failing status” in a bid to ensure teachers, students and parents that they had the Ministry’s full support and that they would not be labelled as failures.
The Minister visited Holy Trinity High School in Kingston, Glengoffe High in St. Catherine, Balaclava High in St. Elizabeth and Marcus Garvey Technical High in St. Ann.
He assured that he would be approaching top performing schools located in close proximity to those schools to work closely with them in an effort to improve the standards of the institutions.
In March, the Ministry showed much efficiency and readiness as it successfully administered the highly anticipated Grade Six Achievement Test on March 22 and 23.
The exam saw a total of 44,000 entrants sitting this year’s test in primary schools across the country. This year’s sitting also saw the sustained implementation of the competence-based transition policy, which required all students to be certified literate in order to do the examination. The results of the test will be published in June this year.
The Ministry’s Alternative Secondary Transitional Education Programme (ASTEP) was also boosted with the donation of computers in March.
The donations were a result of an agreement signed between the MoE and the Digicel Foundation, which saw 36 computers being placed in six schools island-wide.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Minister Thwaites said the computers will help to inculcate skills within students that will set the stage for future success.
“Being able to use the computer is necessary for all the rest of your life in your school work and in your personal enjoyment because any job you get into is going to require you to have some familiarity with information communication technology. So take it very seriously,” he said.
The ASTEP Centre at Seaview Gardens was the first to benefit with the Foundation handing over five computers, while the National Education Trust supervised the installation of the computers in the remaining five ASTEP centres, at the Fellowship Primary and Junior High, and Rio Bueno, Darliston Bellefield and Eltham Park primary schools.
ASTEP is designed to assist students, who have completed primary school and are not certified literate at the grade four level.