Feature
Diaspora Advisory Board member for Midwest United States, Leo Gilling.
Photo: Contributed

Story Highlights

  • The six-year-old Jamaica Diaspora Education Taskforce (JDETF) is providing invaluable support in advancing education in Jamaica.
  • The entity, made up of Jamaicans living overseas, is dedicated to the continued improvement of the country’s education system through the provision of resources and expertise.
  • Over the years, hundreds of local teachers have benefitted from interventions to facilitate professional development.

The six-year-old Jamaica Diaspora Education Taskforce (JDETF) is providing invaluable support in advancing education in Jamaica.

The entity, made up of Jamaicans living overseas, is dedicated to the continued improvement of the country’s education system through the provision of resources and expertise.

Over the years, hundreds of local teachers have benefitted from interventions to facilitate professional development.

Since its inception in 2013, at the 5th Biennial Diaspora Conference held in Montego Bay, St. James, the JDETF has successfully staged four Advancement in Education Summits geared at strengthening the effectiveness of teachers in the classroom.

Jamaica Diaspora Advisory board member, Leo Gilling, who heads the JDETF, tells JIS News that over 800 teachers from across the island participated in the first summit, which was facilitated by the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA).

Coming out of the four days of discussions, a 90-page report was produced, which identified areas that needed the most support.

A summary of the document was shared with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) and the JTA for feedback. A six-year plan, containing 20 items, was then conceptualised.

The most recent JDETF summit was held in April in Florida in the United States (US). A total of 171 educators, including 125 teachers from Jamaica, attended the four-day event. The participants were exposed to training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), early childhood and special education, among other areas.

As part of the summit, the educators toured charter, STEM and technical institutions and universities.

Principal of the Morningside Primary and Infant School in St. Elizabeth, Nahlia Lynch, who was among the attendees, tells JIS News that the experience was “eye- opening for us,” and comes at a time, when Jamaica is introducing a new curriculum for primary schools.

“It was good to see STEM (in action) and how children were actively engaging in the learning process. I wasted no time in implementing the new methods and best practices garnered at the summit,” she says.

In addition to the summits, the JDET is partnering with several local tertiary institutions to assist students in earning certification, which would be acceptable in the US.

As such, Mr. Gilling tells JIS News that the taskforce is working to facilitate partnership between the Florida-based Broward College and local institutions in a 2+2 degree programme.

Under the arrangement, Broward College will offer bachelor and associate degrees to students attending participating institutions, including The Mico University College, Moneague Teachers’ College and Excelsior Community College. At the end of the programme, students will have certification from Broward College and the local participating institutions.

“This is a good thing because now, our students are prepared not just for Jamaica, but if they come to the United States they are ready to work,” Mr. Gilling says. He notes further that for the past six years the JDET has facilitated the graduation of more than 320 teachers from a STEM programme through collaboration with the Loma Linda University in California.

“Every year, we bring up seven teachers, who are trained in how to deliver STEM subjects in their classroom using their iPads and other devices,” he says.

Mr. Gilling says that after the second year of the partnership, Loma Linda University expressed an interest in coming to Jamaica to train more teachers in STEM. Over the past three years since the university has been in Jamaica, 100 teachers per year have been trained.

Several other initiatives have been undertaken by the JDETF, including a grade three developmental camp for special needs students in 2015. A total of 395 students participated in the camp, which was undertaken through US$250,000 in support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Eight Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference will be held from June 16 to 20 at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, under the theme: ‘Jamaica and the Diaspora: Building Pathways for Sustainable Development’. Mr. Gilling tells JIS News that the conference provides an opportunity “to mobilise Jamaicans living in the Diaspora to come to Jamaica and remind them of what their roles are for national development.”