JIS News

Education, Youth and Culture Minister Maxine Henry Wilson, has said that increased effort would be placed on identifying and catering to “special needs students” as an integral part of the thrust to transform the education sector.
The Education Minister who was opening the 2005/06 Sectoral Debate in Gordon House yesterday (May 10), admitted that not enough emphasis was being placed in this very important area. “We need to catch up during the course of the transformation process,” she noted.
Mrs. Henry Wilson told the House that for reasons not yet established, the parishes of St. Catherine and Clarendon had the largest concentration of students with specific learning difficulties and efforts were being made to identify these students, many of whom were in the mainstream education system. She informed that the aim was to arrive at an appropriate intervention with a view to replicating the process across the country.
“Many of them have been put in the system and are said to be slow learners when they in fact have learning disabilities,” Mrs. Henry Wilson told the House. She however assured that efforts were being made to rectify the situation, part of which included the introduction of a system of psychological testing as part of the grade one inventory this year, to determine the factors impeding the learning of special students.
Meanwhile, in further support of this thrust, approval has been granted for the construction of a special school on the grounds of the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in Montego Bay to accommodate students with special needs from the early childhood to secondary level. Among the services to be provided are early stimulation and vocational training, while the facility will establish best practices for these children.
The cost for educating a special child is approximately five times that of a “normal” learner. The Education Ministry has over the years provided for students with learning challenges, having instituted an inclusive model in schools and a module included in the curriculum of teachers colleges, to educate all teachers in the fundamentals of teaching children with special needs.
In addition, provisions for special examination accommodations and curriculum support materials for special needs students have been significantly increased.
Currently, the Ministry’s Special Education Unit is fine-tuning a policy framework aimed at further assisting the sector to broaden the scope of its support for these special children.

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