KINGSTON — Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness has informed that approximately 3,000 students have been registered under the Alternative Secondary Transitional Education Programme (ASTEP) and are expected to commence classes in September.
Speaking to journalists during a press briefing at the Ministry's Heroes' Circle offices in Kingston on Friday August 19, the Minister raised concerns that there was still an additional 3,000 students who have been placed on the programme that have not come forward for registration.
“In keeping to our commitment, we have assessed and diagnosed some 6,000 students who did not master the Grade Four Literacy Test and therefore were not able to sit GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test),” the Minister noted.
He said the aim of the assessment is to assist education specialists to develop an individualised teaching programme for those children in ASTEP.
“So we know what the learning challenges are and the learning strengths are for those students and we're going to develop programmes specific to those strengths and challenges,” he stated.
The Minister noted that “so far, based on our audit a little over 3,000 students have gone to take up spaces in the ASTEP centres where they are assigned”. “We’re concerned that there remains somewhere in the region of nearly 3,000 students who have not yet gone into the ASTEP centres to be registered and to lay claim to their spaces there,” he said.
Mr. Holness however noted that he believed that the reluctance by both parents and students might be attributed to the novelty of the programme.
“We are not yet in panic mode, we figure this is because it is a new system and parents are still trying to understand it,” he reasoned. “Come next week we may see a flood of students coming in to take up their spaces in ASTEP."
The Education Minister noted that ASTEP was designed specifically to benefit those children who did not develop the literacy skills necessary to matriculate into the secondary education system.
“If the parents work with the Ministry, I guarantee you that those students will develop those skills rapidly. We have essentially created an environment that suits their learning needs and learning styles and we have placed the resources at the disposal of the centres that will host ASTEP to make sure that the students are appropriately and fairly dealt with,” he explained.
He appealed to those parents with children assigned to the centres to get them registered and send them out to classes so they can get the necessary attention.
ASTEP is a two-year transitional programme for students who were unable to sit GSAT and move on to secondary education. The students will be assessed at the beginning and throughout the programme so that educators can follow their progress.
ASTEP is expected to provide a modified secondary education with focus placed on literacy so that students can make the transition to the secondary level.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter