JIS News

Minister of Education, Andrew Holness has lauded an initiative to establish Centres of Excellence in 15 schools, to provide sustained support to the education transformation process.
The project, valued at $100 million, is being spearheaded by the Mutual Building Societies Foundation.
Speaking at the launch of the project at the Hilton Kingston Hotel on February 14, the Minister said that the initiative would go a long way towards addressing inequality in educational opportunity. The primary objectives of the Centres of Excellence are to develop a platform for the delivery of a world class education for students in rural Jamaica, to focus on education as a major stimulant for personal empowerment, and to be a change agent to correct the myriad of social issues that retard community and national development. Mr. Holness said he was confident the project would succeed, and that the Ministry would be targeting three schools each year for five years. The 15 schools represent approximately seven per cent of the 214 high schools in the country with some 210,000 students. “This is a significant intervention for a private initiative,” the Minister said. He emphasized that the impact of the project would be far greater than the 15 schools, because based on the design of the project, “these schools will be the nursery for ideas to improvement.”
The Minister said the fact that the persons who would be co-ordinating the project would reside at the Ministry, it would be possible to transplant to the wider system, the best practices which emanated from the project.
A joint venture of the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) and the Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS), the Foundation, which was conceptualised in 2007, will implement social developmental projects which serve as models for effective partnerships that lead to sustainable national development.
In order for schools to qualify, they must be non-traditional or newly upgraded high schools located in rural areas and other towns; the school must be under-performing; a development plan must be in place or there must be a willingness to develop a plan with the support of the partners; the schools’ administration – the principal, senior staff and school board – must show the capacity for clear and effective leadership; they must have support from civic groups – drama club, Parent/Teachers Association, neighbourhood watch, football club – both within and outside the institution; there must be an existing or proposed method for open dialogue between the school administration and the surrounding community; and a willingness to develop a fair and systematic procurement policy for goods and services.
Some of the expected outcomes from the project in the short term include, enhanced knowledge and skill in school-based management; established accountability structures to identify, support and monitor under-achieving students and plan professional learning activities for staff; improved attitude and use of performance data; enhanced teacher knowledge and skills in student-centred learning approaches; enhanced student attitude towards school; and increased involvement of parents in home and school-based activities.
In the medium term, the outcomes include clear and shared understanding of goals which are focused on student learning, sustained improvement and problem-solving; a culture of high expectation and caring for students, and strong instructional leadership.

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