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JIS News

A total of 413 primary schools islandwide are to benefit from the skills and expertise of 63 Mathematics specialists, who will be in the schools by October. This move is part of plans to improve students’ performance in the subject.
Details of the initiative were given by National Mathematics Co-ordinator, Tamika Benjamin, in a recent interview with JIS News.
“We just completed identifying 63 specialists. We need a total of 119, but in the first phase we are placing 63 specialists in the schools and they will be deployed in October. The total number of schools we are targeting now is 413,” Mrs. Benjamin said.
The specialists will operate on a school or cluster based structure, to target the schools identified.
“There are two types of specialists. We have the school based specialists, and 36 of the 63 will be placed in schools that have been identified, based on data as needing critical support as their school average is below 30 per cent; and there are cluster based specialists,” she explained.
Mrs. Benjamin pointed out that the 36 school based specialists would be responsible for teaching and “they will directly interact with the students, since they will be teaching grades one, three, four and five.”
According to Mrs. Benjamin, grade six is late for an intervention and as such, the lower grades are being targeted.
“Grade six is late, in a sense, so you really want to put the specialists at the point where it really matters, but they will provide support to the teachers at grades two and six, helping them with lesson planning, designing activities, assessment and so on,” she explained.
The cluster based specialists, on the other hand, will be focussing on groups of schools.
“We have cluster based specialists, who will be assigned to groups of three to five schools and they will be responsible for visiting the schools, running demonstration lessons, providing the teachers with technical support, helping them with sequencing of concepts and also building their content knowledge and methodology skills,” Mrs. Benjamin informed.
“In those classes, you will have two teachers, so we are reducing the student-teacher ratio. They won’t be class teachers, but this person will actually come in during math time and teach, so instead of one teacher, you will have the specialist and the class teacher,” she added. This, she noted, would facilitate group activities and other methods that are effective in teaching Mathematics.
Pointing out that the primary schools were selected in an effort to address the problem at the foundation level, Mrs. Benjamin said that, “the primary system lays the foundation for secondary education, so if we want to tackle a problem, you can do it in two ways; you can use all the resources you have and spread it out across all areas of the system, which can work, but you can also try to put more of your funds into the bottom, where the foundation is laid and then provide less direct support at the upper levels.”
With this approach, she noted, over time there would be less need for support at the upper levels.
The deployment of Mathematics specialists follows the Task Force Report on Education, which recommends that strategies be developed, geared toward improving the teaching and learning of Mathematics at the primary and secondary levels.