JIS News

Minister of Education, Andrew Holness is urging all operators of early childhood institutions to register with the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), regardless of the status in relation to the standards set by the Commission.
“Schools, regardless of how they judge themselves against the standards that we have set, should come in and register. The registration process is an important one, where the Early Childhood Commission will get to know the institutions. We want to have an idea of exactly what is the status of the schools,” Mr. Holness said at today’s (February 20), post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
He said some principals and teachers are of the view that if their institutions do not match the criteria set out by the ECC, then they cannot register. However, he said that it is in coming forward and introducing themselves to the ECC that they may be able to bring the institutions to the appropriate level, through the assistance of the Commission.
“Come in and register, so that we know who you are. At the end of the registration process, we will be collating all the data that we have gathered and then that will help to direct policy towards improving the early childhood institutions, and it is only those institutions that we have information on, that we can effectively intervene to assist, and so it behoves the institutions to ensure that they come in and register,” the Minister emphasized.
He pointed out that although the Commission provides a regulatory function, it also exists to support the institutions to meet the standards. “In this case, we have the function to assist the institutions to raise their standards, and that is all we want to do in this phase,” he stated.
Mr. Holness assured that there will be no closure of early childhood institutions in this phase of the transformation process. “However, the Early Childhood Act provides that where an inspection is done and a school is found wanting, particularly when it comes to health issues and safety, then a recommendation is to be made to the Minister, and I would be extremely reluctant to make that decision, even if that recommendation is made,” he told journalists. A February 29 deadline has been set for all early childhood institutions to register with the ECC.
Meanwhile, Mr. Holness noted that the standards of delivery in the island are varied, with less than 30 per cent of children in community basic schools achieving mastery at the level that they should. In the government-operated basic schools, this attainment is 30 per cent. “But when you go to the privately run schools, mastery is in the 60s. That is the foundation of disparity that runs throughout the education system,” the Minister noted, pointing out that more than 90 per cent of early childhood service is delivered in the community-based basic schools.
Therefore, he said, it is critical that if the standards are to be raised and the disparity in performance removed, the first step must be made in the area of early childhood, “so that all children have the same possibility of life success in the education system.”
He said that while the government is doing everything that it possibly can, the process is an expensive one and the private sector should get involved. One initiative to this end, he said, was a Foundation launched by Lorna Golding, wife of Prime Minister Bruce Golding, which is in the process of raising funds and identifying persons who would augment the existing Board structures for early childhood institutions. “The intention is not just to bring financial resources, but to bring people resources to the table,” he noted.
“We want more persons in the community to get involved and assist. When that happens, the burden will be less. It is not the intention of the government to change the structure of early childhood to take it out of the community base. What we want to do is to strengthen the community base,” the Education Minister stressed.

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