Early Childhood Practitioners Benefit from Workshops on New Act

The Enhancement of Basic Schools Project (EBSP) is undertaking more than 250 workshops across the island, geared at educating early childhood practitioners and operators and owners of early childhood institutions (ECIs) about the new standards and regulations that will soon govern the early childhood sector.
Speaking at a recent JIS Think Tank, Consultant to the EBSP, Janet Brown said that the workshops, which started at the end of January and would last until the end of April, were being conducted by some 75 education officers throughout the respective regions and zones of the Ministry of Education and Youth.
The workshops, which are conducted by education officers, are targeted at staff and members of management committees of basic and infant schools, pre-schools, kindergarten/nurseries/day care facilities and preparatory schools. The sessions provide for interaction among stakeholders about the standards and hear the concerns and feedback from participants.
“The workshops target the most critical stakeholders – teachers, management committees and parents. They are the ones that have the most passionate concerns.and the workshops give the opportunity for them to ask their questions, air their fears and to get answers,” she noted.
Mrs. Brown said that feedback from the workshops held so far have been positive as many people are welcoming the new standards, which they believe will improve the quality of early childhood institutions.
“We have been encouraged by the workshops that we have attended.and they have been going extremely well. People are welcoming the information, they’re welcoming the period of time they have before registration. One of the most encouraging aspects of the workshops is that the schools are already working on getting ready to comply,” she stated.
Alleviating the fears of persons, who feel that complying with the standards will be costly, Mrs. Brown pointed out that a number of the standards will not require financial injection.
“We emphasise in the workshops that not everything cost money. There are a lot of the standards that just require will and policy at the management level. It doesn’t cost to permanently put away the strap for instance and ensure that no child is ever beaten in an ECI, which is now the law,” she pointed out.
Prior to the island-wide workshops, education officers went through a series of training sessions, to assist them to effectively convey the requirements of the Act, before the mandatory registration of all ECIs comes on stream later this year.
At the end of the three-month workshops, the education officers will continue the sensitization process through monthly meetings with early childhood practitioners in the different regions/zones.
Maureen Campbell, Acting Senior Education Officer for early childhood in region 2, which comprises Portland, St. Thomas, St. Mary, said that the majority of the participants in the region, though expressing concern about some of the requirements, were mainly receptive toward the standardization process.
“I think the workshops are going very well, and the participation has been very good. Persons are saying exactly how they feel. Some persons are very apprehensive about the registration process, some people feel that the standards are demanding too much, but I think the general feeling is that we need to have some improvement for early childhood institutions,” she stated.
Anthony Myers and Chairman of the Nonesuch Basic School parent teachers association, in Portland, said that the introduction of the new standards would have a positive impact on the early childhood sector.
“I believe the new standards will help us to become more organized as they will govern things that happen in our schools. We must understand that things and times have changed and therefore, we have to change also to meet the criteria of this society, and we must remember that we are nurturing young minds because they are the men and women of tomorrow,” he said.
Before applying for registration, all early childhood institutions will be required to meet the stipulated specifications to involve the use of at least one trained teacher, proper building structures to house the children, adequate indoor and outdoor play areas, a proper nutrition programme, a safety plan, and ensure adequate interaction between children staff, among others.
Recognizing the challenges that many early childhood institutions will face in seeking to meet the requirements the Early Childhood Commission will give each institution a specific time frame to meet the standards. In the interim, however, the institution would be given a Certification of Operation while it endeavours to make the necessary adjustments.
There are an estimated 2,500 early childhood institutions in Jamaica. A national survey is currently being done in order to have a more accurate figure.

JIS Social