Jonathan Grant High School Pursuing Excellence

Photo: JIS Photographer Jonathan Grant High School Student Jared Hopkins (Right), showcases his winning drone entry in the Robotics Competition at a science fair held recently at the Jonathan Grant High School. The science fair was held under the theme: ‘Promoting Holistic Development through STEM Education’.

Story Highlights

  • ‘I am created for excellence’, is the mantra that students of the Jonathan Grant High School located in the heart of Spanish Town, St. Catherine live by daily.
  • It was once viewed as the school that only non-performers attended, but today, the 35 year old institution is graduating some of the top performers in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
  • The school has seen a five percent increase in Mathematics passes at the CSEC level between 2012 and 2015, and a 100 percent pass rate in Information Technology at the CAPE level.

‘I am created for excellence’, is the mantra that students of the Jonathan Grant High School located in the heart of Spanish Town, St. Catherine live by daily.

It was once viewed as the school that only non-performers attended, but today, the 35 year old institution is graduating some of the top performers in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The school has seen a five percent increase in Mathematics passes at the CSEC level between 2012 and 2015, and a 100 percent pass rate in Information Technology at the CAPE level.

According to the Principal of Jonathan Grant High School, Dr. O’Neil Ankle, his school is one of the schools leading the charge of the Government to increase the number of students pursuing STEM subjects.

Dr. Ankle says he encourages students to pursue the STEM subjects, as he believes that “the world’s problems and many of Jamaica’s problems can be solved through Science and Technology.”

To encourage students to pursue the subject areas, the school organizes a biennial science fair that targets not only students of the school, but other institutions in and around the parish of St. Catherine.

The goal of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, Technology Energy and Mining, is to integrate STEM within the education system at all levels of the school.

During this year’s science fair, students were exposed to practical demonstrations from organizations such as the Scientific Research Council (SRC), Bodles Research Station and the Orange River Research Station.

The principal says he believes that despite the common view that STEM subjects are difficult, Jonathan Grant is able to “stimulate the intellectual appetite of students.”

In addition to the science fair, the school also hosts an annual Mathematics marathon for the three weeks leading up to the CSEC exams.  They also host a Mathematics camp during the Christmas break, as well as free extra lessons on Saturdays and Sundays.

The principal says with these practical and concentrated activities in the sciences, he is expecting that students’ performance will improve dramatically in the years to come.

He adds that since the implementation of these programmes, there have been increases of six percentage points in CSEC Biology and Physics passes from 2014 to 2015, and 50 percentage points in CSEC Mathematics passes from 2012 to 2015.

Dr. Ankle says he believes that Mathematics and Science are essential to learning, and has even mandated that both departments work together in achieving the targets for STEM at the institution.

He explains that many students struggle with Mathematics, however there has to be encouragement. He says that for those students who struggle with CSEC Mathematics, he encourages them to do it in segments, in the British City & Guilds exams.

He says with this approach, they are better able to maneuver the subject area, as they are able to do it at level one or level two.

The sitting of the City & Guilds exam has been successful for the students, as this year, over 90 percent of the students passed. “At least each student leaves with a Mathematics foundation,” the educator adds.

In addition, he encourages students who have mastered the subject areas to do them as early as grade ten, and is proud that 20 grade ten students will be sitting the subject at the CSEC level this academic year.

Despite the fact that many students find the subject area difficult, Dr. Ankle says he believes, that with innovative teaching methods, and encouragement, students can master it, as in 2012, Jonathan Grant had zero students getting grade ones in CSEC Mathematics, while in 2015 there were 30 students receiving grade ones in the subject.

The principal believes that the STEM subjects are the foundation to stimulate thought, and explains that every student at Jonathan Grant has to do at least one of these subjects up to grade 11.

In stimulating learning through STEM, students have been excelling in many other areas, moving from 181 grade ones in 2013 in all CSEC subject areas, to 305 grade ones in 2015.

“Students with a STEM based foundation are better able to transition into the world. This is also evidenced by the fact that the institution had its first sitting of CAPE in 2015, with 77 percent of the students passing Environmental Science,” he says.

Robotics is also a subject area of interest for the students, and despite the school not currently teaching it, the principal is exploring the option of integrating the subject area into the curriculum in the future.

Additionally, with STEM education being the avenue for critical thinking and finding alternative ways to do things more efficiently, the educator says that “right now the focus is on renewable energy.”

He says that teachers have undergone training in renewable energy and are awaiting equipment to begin integrating this critical area into the school curriculum.

The active STEM programme is already showing signs of success at the school, with one of its students Shemar Jackson topping the region in 2014 in CSEC Mechanical Technology, later receiving a scholarship at a German institution, where he is studying Mechanical Engineering.

Other successes for the school in STEM include Samantha Samuels achieving third position in the region in CSEC Agricultural Science, as well as another student copping the 10th position in CSEC Mechanical Technology in the region.

These successes are highlighted and placed on notice boards around the school to motivate students and have them aspire to the highest.

“Top performers are also awarded for their achievements. There is a Principals list, a Chairman’s list and a Vice Principal’s list, which are part of Jonathan Grant’s honour roll,” Dr. Ankle explains.

Dr. Ankle believes that all students can excel even in STEM subjects. “All they need is support. Educating the future generation is an investment,” he says.

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