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Story Highlights

  • The project, which started in 2010, is primarily aimed at improving the reading skills of students from grade one to three.
  • Those who have been involved in the project are now equipped to practise and pass on new reading techniques.
  • The reading coaches will not replace teachers, but will supplement and complement them.

The Ministry of Education has taken over the reigns of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Jamaica Basic Education Project (JBEP), and will now take the initiative to its next phase.

The project, which started in 2010, is primarily aimed at improving the reading skills of students from grade one to three, in regions one, four and six. It has assisted the Ministry to improve reading skills in 172 primary schools in the specified regions and provided support to the Education System Transformation Programme (ESTP) in 250 institutions.

The initiative supports the Ministry’s goal of achieving quality education through the ESTP and seeks to expand on the previous Expanding Educational Horizons and New Horizons for Primary Schools projects, as well as best practices from the Caribbean Centre for Excellence in teacher training.

Speaking at the symbolic handing over ceremony, Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, said that those who have been involved in the project are now equipped to practise and pass on new reading techniques, new performance measures and standards. “We now anticipate the cascade effect throughout the education system,” he stated.

He lauded the US Government and in particular the USAID, along with the JBEP team, for their commitment and investment in the advancement of the Jamaican primary education system.

“We are indebted to them for helping us to do that which we would have wanted to do for ourselves, and must now takeover full responsibility…this ceremony is an important milestone, because it signals that several local educators and administrators involved in delivering reading curriculum in primary schools have completed a phase of knowledge transfer,” the Education Minister stated.

He said with the continued use of reading coaches and peer trainers, the reading progamme is being extended into more schools, and urged principals to ask for the assistance they need.

“It is not a shame to say that you need help, that your students require more than you can give,” he said, noting that the Ministry is seeking full partnership and co-operation to attain its target of 85 per cent mastery in literacy by 2014, among all grade four students.

Minister Thwaites informed that the reading coaches will not replace teachers, but will supplement and complement them, using the modern techniques, and opportunities for support and suggestions.

In her address, Chief of Party/Project Director, JBEP, Dr. Jean Beaumont pointed out that the resources created from the project were accessible to all schools, not just those involved in the JBEP.

These include: reading assessment checklist for grades 1-3; reading standards and benchmark for grades 1-3; checklist for principals to monitor the use of these standards; procedures for successfully managing and supervising the reading programme; strategies for effective teaching of reading comprehension; and tools for continuous reading assessment and a manual.

Technology resources for the 172 project schools include: desktop computers (in some schools), laptops, multi-media projectors, digital cameras, and the Jamaica School Administrative Software (JSAS) system, which is available to all schools.

Dr. Beaumont explained that the project was mandated to develop remedial instruction for grade three teachers, which resulted in the staging of Camp Summer Plus over the past three years.

“This intervention (camp) alone has impacted everyone. The consistent improvement in students’ performance level has proven that we must persevere. It proves that it is possible for an entire class of low performing students, can make an entire year’s movement, in five weeks,” she stressed.

USAID Mission Director, Denise Herbol, said learning to read is the most important skill for children to develop.

She noted that over the past three years, the JBEP project has made progress in improving early grade reading skills and numeracy in select schools across the country. “It has not been an easy road, but through perseverance and determination, we have made great inroads,” Ms. Herbol stated.

The Ministry, in collaboration with the USAID, will manage the next phase of the project, which is dubbed: Education Partnership for Improved Reading Outcomes.