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JIS News

Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, has said that he will be looking into a fund for the upgrading of early childhood facilities, which will help them to meet the new operating standards under the Early Childhood Education Act.
“I have agreed to look into setting up a fund and very soon, we will be coming to the public with exactly how the fund will operate,” he told JIS News, after a meeting with stakeholders in the early childhood education sector on Friday (Jan. 4) at the Morgan’s Basic School in Spanish Town, St. Catherine.
According to the Minister, “it’s useless to set standards that people can’t meet, so we have to assist them in meeting the conditions”. He noted however that “we can’t improve all the schools at the same time and we can’t do everything, so clearly, there has to be a selection mechanism”.
As part of the Early Childhood Act, a registration system has been implemented and institutions are required to meet certain quality standards to be registered. In addition to having better trained teachers, these include the upgrading of physical infrastructure to provide sick bays, separate bathrooms for teachers and students, lunchroom, internal and external play areas; ensuring adequate student-teacher ratio; and suitable learning materials and programmes.
The registration process began on November 30, 2007 and all institutions are required to register with the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), which is implementing the Act, by the end of February. But operators of institutions, which include day care centres, have raised concerns that they do not have the resources to make the necessary changes to meet the requirements, and some may have to close their doors.
The Minister has however maintained that the intent of the registration process is not to close institutions, but to assist operators in making the necessary improvements to ensure that children receive quality education in a suitable environment.Pointing to the need to have more qualified teachers in the system, Minister Holness said that the Government is considering a revolving loan fund, which will provide financing for teachers to upgrade their skills.
Addressing concerns about inadequate remuneration for qualified teachers, he indicated that the Government will have to re-examine the incentive subsidy offered to those in the system, who have been trained to the level of diploma or higher. He said that he will meet “very shortly” with Chairman of the ECC, Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, to discuss the situation.
According to Mr. Holness, the meeting was fruitful as the “teachers now understand that early childhood education is a partnership and what Government is trying to do is balance that partnership and increase its participation in terms of standards and facilities.”
The Minister indicated that he will hold further discussions on the issues raised at the meeting with the Associations for Early Childhood Institutions.