JIS News

The Expanding Educational Horizons (EEH) project in the Ministry of Education has been reaping rewards through the use of technological tools to improve literacy and numeracy in low performing schools island-wide.
Since the inception of the programme in 2005, 17 schools have graduated with between 60 and 90 per cent improvement in literacy and numeracy skills. Come June 5, another batch of schools will be graduating from the programme.
The programme is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Education and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is aimed at enhancing curriculum delivery and improving literacy and numeracy in 71 primary schools and six non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Speaking with JIS News, Project Director of the EEH project, Dr. Jean Beaumont, explained that these institutions were targeted because of their very low performance in all areas of the school’s curriculum especially in literacy and numeracy. “The project had to go about identifying why they (the schools) were performing at that level and placed the emphasis on teacher training with a view to impacting students’ performance,” Dr. Beaumont pointed out.
She added that the aim was to identify and implement best practices, strategies and methodologies to enhance literacy and numeracy.
As a result, several activities were implemented including equipping schools with technology tools, conducting workshops, producing teachers’ guides and increasing access to resource materials.
“We equipped schools with technology tools such as desktop computers, laptops, printers, scanners, digital cameras, camcorders, small computing devices called Alphasmart and an upgrade to that which is called a Dana,” the Project Director informed.
She noted that the integration of technology has impacted positively on the overall teaching and learning environment and students’ performance. A technique, which she described as a tremendous success is digital storytelling, a method which involves the production of narrated short films using still photos, music and voice.
She pointed out that through multi-media, this technique provides multi-modal learning opportunities for the students, allowing them to become more engaged with the information.
Teachers have been creating electronic portfolios which involve documenting students’ readings of a given passage over time, their reflections on the readings and the teachers’ comments and interventions between readings.
Televisions, VCRs, portable radios, CD players and tape recorders are also used by teachers and students to play or record stories. The listening and comprehension skills are developed when teachers play these audio stories frequently and ask the students questions on characters and events in the story.
Another device, which has aided teachers, is the Jamaica Administrative System (JAS). This is a database where teachers input data on children’s performance in the classroom.
With the implementation of this database, Dr. Beaumont noted that “the teachers can generate a school report, the principals can generate transcripts and the entire school can use that performance data to determine where the children’s needs are, where their strengths are and how to plan for school improvement.”
In terms of support, Dr. Beaumont said that two literacy specialists, 11 literacy resource specialists and one literacy consultant work closely with the schools to offer guided practice to both classroom teachers and students.
Dr. Beaumont noted that a number of factors have led to the poor performance of these schools including poor leadership, the school environment, the students’ perception of education and the attendance level.
Interventions, she said, have included working with the Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs) and giving tips on how parents can help the students at home.
The Project Director stated that at the end of the project next year, the Education Transformation Team within the Ministry of Education will continue to guide the changes in education.
“They (the team) are harnessing the effective best practices that have taken place and are developing a cadre that will work across the island to lift the education system,” she informed.
The EEH project benefits approximately 30,000 primary school students and some 3,000 out-of-school youth.