JIS News

A Ministry of Education’s programme aimed at transforming 23 inner city schools in Kingston, Spanish Town, and Montego Bay, is experiencing measurable success.
Manager of the Innercity Schools Improvement Programme (ISIP), Winston Thomas, speaking at yesterday’s (May 28) JIS Think Tank, said that the gains are despite the general lack of parental interest and the negative impact of violence on communities.
The ISIP began in 2003 out of the need to focus attention on literacy in a number of innercity schools on the recommendation of a committee, which was established under former Chief Education Officer, Wesley Barrett.
The programme, whose main thrust is to improve the literacy rate and infrastructure in inner city schools, has employed a number of strategies, including collaboration with agencies and interface with the community through seminars by literacy coordinators; development of role models; focus on comprehension, parenting seminars, parent literacy, parent leadership, and parent involvement in fund raising; and nutrition programmes for the students.
According to Mr. Thomas, the strategies have worked despite the challenges posed by the peculiarities of innercity communities.
“The transformation is taking place non-the-less,” he said “because more students are getting better GSAT results, more are going to traditional schools, there are improvements in the Grade Four Literacy Test, their attendance has improved, they are more responsive to teachers, their self esteem has improved and there are less pre-trained teachers in those schools.”
The 23 participating schools comprise 10 primary, three all-age, one primary and junior high, and nine high schools. They were chosen because “their level of literacy was really poor, the level of attendance was below the national average of 85 per cent, infrastructure was poor and so was their operation. Vandalism was high and there was little or no support from the immediate school community,” Mr. Thomas explained.
At the start of the programme, the head teachers of the participating schools were assisted in developing a school improvement plan, which outlined the areas that need to be developed, infrastructure needing improvement, resources to be garnered and funding to be sourced. Based on these plans, each school was allotted no less than $890,000.
The schools are now equipped with resource rooms and reading laboratories and technology is playing a big part, he said, adding that as a result, students were now participating in Spelling Bee competitions, the Girl Guide and Scout movements, and sports, such as badminton. In addition, the schools are hosting a Boys’ Day and Girls’ Day that are delivered by past students and are pressing to develop a sustained Past Students’ Association
The ISIP is a collaborative initiative involving agencies of the Government including the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) that assists with improvements in infrastructure.
Several other initiatives are being undertaken by the Ministry of Education, such as the Primary Education Support Project (PESP), Secondary Education Project (SEP), Reform of Secondary Education (ROSE), and the Expanding Educational Horizon Programme (EEHP), all of which are providing synergic support to the Innercity School Improvement Programme.