When school re-opens in September 2012, some 4,800 new students will join the Alternative Secondary Transitional Education Programme (ASTEP).
They will be the second batch of students to benefit from the intervention programme, which began last year.
Project Director, Novelette Denton Prince, says Government has allocated some $200 million towards the ASTEP for the new academic year. She tells JIS News that the Ministry of Education is making the necessary preparations to welcome these new students.
The ASTEP is for students who have not qualified to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test for placement in secondary schools. A two-year transitional programme, it offers a modified secondary education syllabus with a focus on literacy, so that they can make the transition to the full secondary programme.
Currently, there are 163 operational ASTEP centres across the island. Each centre has a trained specialist teacher and a maximum class size of 25 students, thereby catering to the child’s individual needs.
Mrs. Denton Prince says that “additional centres have been identified, especially in existing ASTEP schools, to accommodate the added number for this year.”
She explains that some centres had far less students than others, so they will be able to accommodate the new students.
“A few students will be able to transition into Secondary Schools and so additional spaces would also be created. Therefore, class sizes will continue to remain within the stipulated (range).”
Mrs. Denton Prince describes the programme as “unique and designed to impact learning in a positive way.”
The curriculum was designed by the Institute of Education at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Students are taught subjects, such as Communication Skills, English Language, Mathematics, Social Studies, Integrated Science, Music, Drama, Physical Education and Personal Empowerment.
Mrs. Denton Prince explains that students in ASTEP are tested and a combination of strategies is used to address their existing needs.
She notes that testing for the new set of students has already begun. “Psychological assessment of students to enter the programme in September is well underway and almost completed in all regions,” she tells JIS News.
This information will be used to guide teachers in their preparation for delivery of the curriculum, she explains.
The Project Director also notes that the programme has “specially trained teaching staff, with continuous training support, and adequate, appropriate and relevant resource materials and technology for students and teachers to facilitate the learning process.”
Further, the Ministry is currently distributing learning aids, such as mimios, which are interactive devices used on white boards, and other technological aids to the ASTEP centres.
Asked about the progress of the current crop of students in theprogramme, Mrs. Denton Prince says that so far, “the centres are reporting improvements in students’ academic performances and also students’ social growth.”
“The programme is meeting its intended objectives,” she says, adding that the response of all stakeholders, including parents, teachers and principals, has been “very good throughout all regions.”
Mrs. Denton Prince points out that the Ministry will bedoing a comprehensive analysis, to determine how well the programme is meeting its overall objectives.
By Andrea Braham, JIS Reporter