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The Education Ministry will be expanding existing literacy programmes this year, as part of efforts to improve the performance of students at the primary level.
Education, Youth and Culture Minister Maxine Henry-Wilson, in her contribution to the 2005/06 Sectoral Debate in Gordon House on May 10, said that while the results of the Grade Four Literacy Test and the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), had showed an improvement in the functional rate at the primary level, the rates were still below desirable standards.
She indicated that a blend of strategies would be employed to improve performance. “Firstly we intend to win the fight against illiteracy by expanding existing programmes to provide national remediation at strategic points,” she indicated. These programmes include the Literacy Support System to Readiness in Grade One and the grades four and seven literacy interventions.
An analysis of the Grade One Readiness Inventory for this year, revealed that the children have the greatest difficulties in visual and auditory perception. “These children would therefore have difficulties in accessing the grade one curriculum, especially the acquisition of literacy skills,” the Minister pointed out, informing that the Literacy Support System was developed to identify and alleviate these difficulties.
The system has been piloted among students in 24 selected schools in rural and inner-city communities, where it is hoped that through appropriate diagnosis, children with special needs will be identified and the needs addressed.
The impact of selected strategies and techniques would inform a gradual system-wide intervention, beginning with 20 schools in each region, come September. “This is in accordance with the national remediation recommended by the (Education) Task Force,” the Minister indicated.
She noted that the programme would be strengthened in the coming year, through the training of more supervisory and curriculum support officers in the use of specific literacy strategies; augmenting existing support materials and assigning at least three supervisory officers per region on a phased basis.
In addition, the qualifications and training of teachers at Grade One will be reviewed so that only those with early childhood or primary education training are placed at this level. The progress of students will also be tracked through the use of appropriate management systems such as the Jamaica Schools Administrative Software (JSAS).
The Education Minister also pointed out that through the Revised Primary Curriculum, greater use was being made of a variety of alternative teaching strategies to cater to both boys and girls and to ensure that learning experiences were student-centered.
“This is the essence of our conviction, that every child can learn and every child will and must. we recognize the varying learning styles and capacities of our children – one size does not fit all,” the Minister stated.