JIS News

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has emphasized that the Government would continue to give priority to early childhood education, in the thrust to develop a wholesome, ethical and productive nation.
Highlighting a number of initiatives, Mrs. Simpson Miller noted that during the past fiscal year, the CHASE Fund disbursed grants of more than $180 million in support of a wide range of early childhood education projects, and would spend an additional $280 million on early childhood education projects this year.
Mrs. Simpson Miller, who was making her contribution to the 2007/08 Budget Debate in the House on May 1, cited the establishment of the Early Childhood Commission, which she said was “headed by one of the Caribbean’s most distinguished researchers on the subject with a record for systematic implementation, Dr. Maureen Samms-Vaughn, who in recognition of her work has now been given a Professorial Chair.”
The Prime Minister said the Commission was leading the way for children to have access to quality early childhood services, to enable them to realize their full potential. She pointed out that the Commission had developed a system to support the registration of early childhood institutions, with the launch of a public education campaign in January of this year to inform stakeholders of the new legal and regulatory framework governing the sector, as well as the requirements for registration.
She noted that some 250 consultations would be convened islandwide, with over 60 already held under the theme: ‘Start them right .. make them bright’.
The Prime Minister also informed that a national parenting policy was being developed, as a far-reaching initiative of the Commission, and that it would be a requirement for parents to participate in this programme, once it is established.
Mrs. Simpson Miller emphasized that for the first time in the country’s history, a curriculum was being developed for children under three years old, as well as a separate curriculum, for children 3 to 5 years old.
“As part of our commitment to early childhood education, we are assigning one trained teacher to each basic school. To date, nearly 390 diploma-trained teachers have been assigned in 13 parishes. as soon as the teachers are trained, they are placed,” she said, adding that teachers’ colleges were being “ramped up” to increase the number of teachers being trained.
To complement this, caregivers were also being trained and would now be required to have a minimum qualification of Level One of the HEART Trust/NCTVET programme, she said. To date, caregivers have been trained to Levels One and Two of the programme.
The Prime Minister also highlighted the on-going development of a national nutrition programme for early childhood institutions for children between three and six years old. “It will include affordable meals, recipe manuals and operational standards. This has been successfully piloted in St. Mary, and is now being implemented islandwide,” Mrs. Simpson Miller noted.
“The fact is, we have a comprehensive national plan of action evolving through wide-ranging consultations and with the input of a multi-disciplinary team of local and international experts from agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, and the World Bank, among others,” she told the House.
Mrs. Simpson Miller said the plan was being implemented in the most meticulous manner to ensure sustainability.
“We will not unravel or reverse the gains we have made. We expect that these initiatives in early childhood education will have a significant impact on the moral and social fibre of the society, as well as on its productivity, in years to come,” she said.

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