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JIS News

The government of Jamaica has introduced a national literacy strategy, through which it will significantly reduce, and ultimately eliminate the problem of students leaving secondary school without the ability to read and write.
Minister of State for Education and Youth, Senator Noel Monteith, tells JIS News that the initiative, which started this school year, “is based on concern about the unsatisfactory performance of students in language and literacy at all levels of the Jamaican education system and its accompanied effects on language competence and on the potential for human development in the wider society.”
He notes that the aim of the strategy is to “provide relevant educational practices and perspectives, so as to enable the development of confident and competent language learners”.
The programme, he says, involves the application of a “variety of instructional and learning modes relevant to the learner’s literacy needs,” to “ensure that the needs of learners with exceptionalities are adequately addressed, and promote the use of assessment strategies that are current and appropriate to the learning environment and to strategies employed in language literacy teaching”.
As part of the initiative, there will be doing curriculum review, development and use of literacy standards, and improved coordination of the Ministry’s project activities with literacy components.
“Regional literacy coordination, national literacy coordination and literacy specialists in each school, will all assist in ensuring this coordination”, Senator Monteith informs, adding that there will be collaboration among all stakeholders including the Joint Board of Teacher Education, parents, teachers and non-governmental organisations. The national programme, the Education State Minister tells JIS News, will pull together all existing literacy initiatives, in an effort to facilitate easy monitoring, eliminate repetitions and to better manage the learning resources.
The initiatives include the grades one, four and seven literacy programmes, the Secondary School Enhancement Programme, the School Empowerment Programme and the Reform of Secondary Education Programme.
Noting that over the years, these initiatives have achieved modest levels of success, Senator Monteith cites the 10 per cent improvement in reading and communication skills among grade four students after each intervention between 2005 and 2006.
In 2005, he says, “the rate of literacy was 64 per cent after the May exam, but after the summer intervention, the rate of literacy was 74 per cent.”
He adds that “in 2006, they had 65 per cent after the May exams and 75 per cent after the summer intervention, so what we are seeing here is an improvement of just around a 10 per cent margin after each additional intervention”.
In the meantime, Senator Monteith notes that there is always a need to have more literacy specialists within the school system.
“Literacy development is critical to the success of the education system, and with the literacy problem in Jamaica, there is definitely a need for more specialists,” he points out.
He notes that the number of specialists required for each school will be dependent on the needs of the institution, “so it may vary from school to school and it relates to the number of students in need of this programme”.