JIS News

The Government aims to reduce aggression and crime and violence in the society by establishing socio-emotional standards to help Jamaican children at the early childhood level of the education sector.
Prime Minister P. J. Patterson said that the Early Childhood Commission which was established in 2003 is to develop systems to address the socio-emotional development of children and to examine their interaction with caregivers including parents.
He was speaking at a ceremony this morning (Thursday November 17, 2005) to unveil a plaque and plant trees at the site where the Shortwood Teachers’ College Institute of Early Childhood Education is being constructed.
The Prime Minister said that the Institute was being established in recognition of the Government’s strategy for strengthening the Early Childhood Education Sector and which included the passage of the Early Childhood Act and the setting up of the Early Childhood Commission. According to the Prime Minister, the Act will regulate the operations of early childhood institutions and provide policy and actions that will establish standards of excellence in the sector.
The Act is supported by the Early Childhood Commission which has responsibility for bringing cohesion to the delivery of services to the sector. Areas such as training, governance and regulations, curriculum and physical teaching environment are some of the critical issues that will be addressed in the reform of early childhood education.
Mr. Patterson said that the Government has begun increasing the number of infant departments attached to primary, all-age and junior high schools by utilizing existing places. A study is also underway to determine those schools that have the capacity to be transformed into early childhood facilities to meet the changing demography of the society.
Already the Commission has started sensitizing stakeholders in the sector through training programmes targeted at education officers and operators of day care centers. He said that a clear distinction must be made between day care facilities and early childhood institutions which must have appropriate staff that are adequately trained.
The Prime Minister said that another important development in the reform of the early childhood education sector is the introduction of indicators to track the status and well-being of children. The Commission in collaboration with the Early Childhood Unit in the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health is developing the indicators. They will be used to detect developmental delays and ensure early intervention and guidance.
Mrs. Elaine Foster-Allen, Principal of the Shortwood Teachers’ College pointed to some of the major initiatives that have taken place in the last ten years in the field of Early Childhood Education as in indication of the Government’s commitment to the sector. Among the initiatives she mentioned were the implementation of the UNICEF country programme, the GOJ/CDB Enhancement of Basic Schools Project and the Early Childhood Fund which contributed some $50 million to the construction of the Institute.
The Institute is scheduled to be completed in April 2006.