JIS News

Plans are in high gear by the Education Transformation Team to implement the first phase of its modernisation mandate for the education sector this month.
Executive Director of the Education Transformation Team, Dr. Frank Weeple, explained to JIS News that the first stage of the two and half year-long modernization process “will happen in a six-month inception stage and that will start this month.”
Dr. Weeple said that the appointment of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) for agencies, which are being created to relieve the Ministry of some of its responsibilities, should be completed by September. “We’ll be interviewing for those in September and hope to have the Chief Executive Officers in place by January 2008,” he added.
He noted, however, that the new Regional Education Agencies, the National Education Inspectorate, the Curriculum and Assessment Agency, and the Jamaica Teaching Council would not begin operating until April 2009, “because we need to make sure that there is stability in the system, and there is time to set up these new regional agencies parallel to existing structures.”
These new agencies will replace the existing regional offices of the Ministry of Education and Youth. This forms part of the government’s plan to decentralize the operational functions of the Ministry and give more autonomy at the regional level.
Dr. Weeple said that the agencies would reflect the local agenda, provide enhanced support to schools and respond to the local needs of schools.
“They will have more independence; they will carry more responsibility, and they will also carry a lot of the devolved operational functions from the Ministry. Our main role will be to focus on school improvement – making schools better,” he pointed out.
The Ministry will focus on policy and strategy. “The role of the Education Ministry will change, so that it is not so widespread, but is focused on teaching, learning and education. There will be other staff to pick up more of the support roles,” he noted.
Dr. Weeple explained that with the changes, the position of Chief Education Officer, who has responsibility for the Ministry’s operations, would be made redundant, as the new CEOs assume operational responsibilities. “But it won’t happen overnight,” he stressed.
The second phase of the modernization process, which is being managed by a team of consultants, London-based PA International, in partnership with the Jamaican firm, Price Waterhouse Coopers, will be implemented next year. “This will take us up to the end of 2009, maybe slightly longer,” Dr. Weeple said.
He said that he expected the 15-member consultancy team to start working in July. Over the next six months, the team will be expected to produce schemes of management for the new agencies and flesh out legislative requirements. “They have already done a diagnostic phase, and they have worked closely with other areas of the government on public sector reform,” he pointed out.
Another 40 consultants could join the team to roll out the second phase of the transformation programme, Dr. Weeple noted, indicating that this has not yet being put to tender.
Once established, the new Inspectorate Agency should effectively improve the monitoring of schools, Dr. Weeple pointed out. “It’s about better monitoring, better accountability, and follow-up of inspection.
They will not only inspect schools; they will also inspect the new regional authorities themselves, and in time they will probably inspect early childhood institutions, and perhaps even teacher’s colleges. So, there are high expectations of the Inspection Agency,” he said. The Curriculum and Assessment Agency would take on many of the Ministry’s functions, giving “a strategic view to curriculum,”and is expected to devolve the Curriculum Unit of a major part of its present activities, Dr. Weeple said.
He said the Jamaica Teaching Council would be “charged with raising the status and profile of the teaching profession,” and would also be “ironing out some of the difficulties.making the public aware of really what a high profile and important job this is, supporting and providing leadership.”
It would also take on some functions, including the registration and licensing of teachers, and address issues such as the supply and distribution of teachers, Dr. Weeple explained.
The establishment of regional authorities is one of the recommendations of the Task Force on Education Reform, which was commissioned by the Government in 2004, and is part of the on-going programme to transform the education sector.

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