Henry-Wilson Unveils Broad Changes to Education System


Education, Youth and Culture Minister, Maxine Henry-Wilson, has unveiled a number of initiatives to improve and enhance the delivery of education, some of which will take effect from as early as March 2005.
Speaking at a press briefing at Jamaica House yesterday (Dec. 15) to reveal the recommendations of the Education Task Force, she said within the next three months there would be: diagnostic testing of students to ascertain and apply a remediation programme in literacy skills; development and execution of a citizen education programme to tackle anti-social behaviour; development of the implementation plan and a framework of operation as well as enabling closer and more systematic supervision of the school system.
Meanwhile, come September 2005, parents and students can expect significant changes in their teaching and learning environments with special emphasis on the upgrading and refurbishing of school facilities.
The Education Minister noted however, that while significant impact was expected in the short run, the far-reaching effects could not be gauged until the transformation process was fully implemented, the date of which is set for March 2007.
Outlining other short and medium term changes, Mrs. Henry Wilson said that by March, a comprehensive programme for the preparation of all board members in the new governance requirements would begin, while secondary and primary school principals would be trained in leadership and management.
She told journalists that already, a performance management and appraisal system developed in accordance with the guidelines of the Public Sector Modernisation Programme, was being introduced in the Ministry and would be put into operation by April 2005.
Also in the medium term (April 2005), it is expected that school management teams will assume greater responsibility for the management of teaching functions, Regional Education Authorities (REAs) will be staffed with subject specialists, school boards will be made accountable to REAs, licensing regulations for teachers will be in place and remedial training specialists will be equipped and deployed to REAs.
Furthermore, training of principals in curriculum implementation will continue, while the rationalization of school plants and facilities will begin. Additionally, consideration will be given to extending the school experience from 11-13 years.
Minister Henry Wilson said legislative changes would have to be made to facilitate recommendations regarding organizational restructuring at the central ministry level, changes in the terms and conditions of teachers’ employment, the establishment of regional educational authorities and a national quality assurance authority as well as a performance management and appraisal system.
As such, she indicated, the revision of the Draft Education Regulations would be fast tracked to meet an April 2005 deadline. In the meantime, agencies would be given interim enabling powers by Cabinet.
Meanwhile, the Education Minister said that separate reviews would be undertaken of the early childhood and tertiary sectors based on their importance in the education process. In the meantime, the Early Childhood Act is scheduled to be laid before Parliament early next year and a strategic plan is being developed for tertiary education.
She said the changes, while significant, were not meant to be a panacea for the education system but represented a move toward greater efficiency, accountability and performance of the system, which will require the collective resolve of all partners and stakeholders.
“Next year, when we get CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) results, we cannot expect that you are going to see a quantum leap because there are still other things that need to be done,” she underscored. On the matter of funding, Minister Henry Wilson said other extra budgetary sources were being looked at to meet the financing requirements. The government currently provides $30.2 billion annually for funding education and with the initiatives proposed by the taskforce an additional $22 billion annually for the next two years is expected. Prime Minister Patterson has appointed a committee to investigate and evaluate new funding sources.
In February 2004, Prime Minister Patterson appointed a 14-member Task Force on Educational Reform to prepare and present an action plan consistent with a vision for the creation of a world class education system which will generate the human capital and produce the necessary skills necessary for Jamaican citizens to compete in the global economy.
The education system caters to approximately 800,000 students in public and private institutions at the early childhood, primary and secondary and tertiary levels.

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