JIS News

Story Highlights

  • A pilot programme for the Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, is currently underway in several teaching institutions across the island.
  • The Associate Degree, introduced by the Ministry of Education in September 2014, was designed by the Joint Board of Teacher Education (JBTE) and aims to improve the competencies of instructors in delivering material to their young pupils.
  • The programme targets practicing paraprofessionals in the field, seeking to acquire formal qualifications. It is also open to school leavers with Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) qualifications, who are interested in pursuing a career in the area.

A pilot programme for the Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, is currently underway in several teaching institutions across the island.

The Associate Degree, introduced by the Ministry of Education in September 2014, was designed by the Joint Board of Teacher Education (JBTE) and aims to improve the competencies of instructors in delivering material to their young pupils.

The programme targets practicing paraprofessionals in the field, seeking to acquire formal qualifications. It is also open to school leavers with Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) qualifications, who are interested in pursuing a career in the area.

The JBTE is providing oversight for the programme, which is being offered by the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) in Portland and the Church Teachers’ College in Manchester.

Schools in the corporate area that offer the programme include Excelsior Community College, Shortwood Teachers’ College and St. Joseph Teachers’ College.

The course provides participants with sound foundational knowledge in general education and in specialized early childhood development studies leading to a regionally and internationally recognized qualification in early childhood education.

In an interview with JIS News, Chairman of the JBTE, Dr. Rose Davies explains that the Associate Degree programme is one of many efforts by the Ministry to make improvements in the sector.

Dr. Davies says that currently, instructors in the public basic schools are predominantly paraprofessionals.

“In the public sector where you have infant schools and so on, those teachers must have college level training whereas; in the basic school, this is not a legal requirement. So what you find is that you have a lot of persons at that level who are pre- trained or have gone to one or two workshops but are not formally trained and therein lies the problem,” Dr. Davies states.

She argues that “early childhood is really where it begins” and the quality of the teacher is what “changes the game completely.”

“So we really have to turn our attention now to improving the quality of the teacher right across the board,” she states.

Additionally, the programme acts as a bridge, giving persons with vocational qualifications the opportunity to acquire higher academic credentials.

She mentioned that some teachers have received different levels of training from the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET), however, these programmes are very skills based, without having the academic base.

“One of the aims of training in the early childhood sector is to be able to develop teachers who are very knowledgeable, who are proficient in what they do and who are able to really teach young children in ways that they are able to learn effectively. To do this, the teachers need to develop the methodologies, styles of teaching and learning and have the kind of knowledge base that will make this possible,” she notes.

To this end, the programme offers courses in Theoretical Foundations of Early Childhood Education and Key Theories and Perspectives of Child Development and Socialization.

The curriculum also offers training in general education, and foundational knowledge in various academic disciplines such as mathematics and communication to provide professional and personal enrichment, that will enable practitioners to develop a rich curriculum.

Candidates are also introduced to contemporary trends, in early childhood curriculum practice that integrate the use of technology in the classroom.

First year student in the Associate Degree Early Childhood Education at the Excelsior Community College, Tinneel McLaren also works as a Teachers Aid at the St. Peter and Paul Preparatory School in Kingston.

Ms. McLaren gained entry to the programme using several CXC subjects that she earned in secondary school, as well as a level one NCTVET certification from the HEART Trust NTA Early Childhood Education programme.

The aspiring teacher shared with JIS News her dreams of becoming a trained early childhood educator.

“In the future I hope to own a school or nursery. I want to work my way up and have my own classroom and be a trained teacher so I decided to go this route. After I graduate, I plan to apply for a teaching position at St. Peter and Paul. I then want to continue to do my Bachelors degree so that I can further myself in the area,” she states.

Ms. McLaren says that she is looking forward to the professional gains that she anticipates will follow, after she completes the programme.

“This qualification will improve my professional prospects because for one, I will be getting better paid I suppose and although we don’t get a first degree through this programme it allows me to have some level of education that will enable me to have some formal training. But more importantly at the end of this training I will be able to pass on this knowledge to the children and hopefully do a good job at it,” Ms. McLaren states.