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    Some 6,174 students from 83 schools islandwide have benefited from the Student Empowerment Programme to complete their secondary education.
    The programme is an initiative of the Ministry of Education that seeks to provide opportunities for Grade Nine students who are performing below their grade level.
    Salomie Evering, Deputy Chief Education Officer in charge of Curriculum and Support Services, told JIS News that the students selected for the programme performed significantly below their grade level, scoring 30 per cent and below on the Grade Nine Achievement Test (GNAT).
    She explained that the Student Empowerment Programme’s participants are placed in classrooms with no more than 25 students, depending on the availability of space. Some schools, however, have smaller numbers in these classes.
    “We advocate for no more than 25 students to a class, and usually we try not to place a few of them in a regular class where they are at a disadvantage,” Mrs. Evering explained.
    The programme, which places emphasis on strengthening the student’s literacy and numeracy skills, is an intensive one-year intervention that follows an initial student assessment.
    “One of the first things that is done by the specially selected teacher is the assessment of the students. Although they have come with scores on mathematics and language, the teacher will still want to get an idea of what are some of the other challenges that the children are having,” Mrs. Evering pointed out, adding that the assessment informs the teacher’s plans and practice for the year.
    In addition to literacy and numeracy, the students are given instructions in other subject areas, such as integrated science, social studies, information and communication technology (ICT) and at least one vocational area, including music or physical education, so that they can interact with the rest of the school.
    “When teachers work with the students in the subject areas, they also do reading in the context area, as they are conscious that these students are not very good readers, therefore whatever subject area you are doing, you know that your emphasis is on the special words that form part of that subject area,” she noted.
    Mrs. Evering also explained that the students are taught from “high interest readers and other materials that are of interest at their level. These include a number of language and mathematics focused activities, special software for reading and information technology, as students love to use the computers.”
    Meanwhile, the Deputy Chief Education Officer is calling for a team effort for the continued success of the programme.
    “We encourage a whole school approach, so that teachers are aware of the special needs of these students. Once the students are given the dedicated time and attention, they will be able to close the gap quickly,” she explained.
    The curriculum of the Student Empowerment Programme is supported by materials produced for the specific needs of the students and approved by teachers and Education Officers.

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