- The National Education Inspectorate (NEI) is steadfastly fulfilling its role in helping to transform the education system by promoting excellence, and inculcating a culture of accountability, through quality inspections.
- The Chief Inspector advises that the agency intends to broaden its scope of reporting by giving more information on how students value their experiences in school.
- In keeping with its commitment to transparency and in fulfilment of the requirements of the Access to Information Act, the NEI has been working assiduously to develop and implement a framework to keep its stakeholder constantly informed of its work, initiatives and findings.
The National Education Inspectorate (NEI) is steadfastly fulfilling its role in helping to transform the education system by promoting excellence, and inculcating a culture of accountability, through quality inspections.
Introduced in 2008, the Inspectorate is the national education quality assurance agency, operating independently of the Ministry of Education. It embraces transparency, integrity, honesty and accountability as the hallmarks and guiding principles of its operations, which it seeks to inculcate in the education system.
Chief Inspector, Maureen Dwyer, tells JIS News that the establishment of the NEI resulted from one of the recommendations of the Task Force on Education Reform, which stipulated that a National Quality Assurance Agency should be introduced.
“The NEI is therefore the response to the Ministry of Education’s need to inculcate a culture of accountability within the education system,” she explains, adding that the entity has to be at arm’s length, as the Ministry cannot quality assure itself.
Mrs. Dwyer points out that the Minister of Education is empowered, under Section 39 of the Education Regulations of Jamaica, to mandate the inspection of an educational institution at any time he deems necessary.
The NEI conducts standardised cyclical inspections every three years, but will re-inspect a school upon the request of the Minister of Education, the Department of School Services (DSS) or the Board of Management at the School. In a bid to ensure the standards are adhered to, the agency carries out inspections utilising strict procedures which are documented in its handbook.
The Chief Inspector advises that all inspectors, whether on staff or contractual, are professionals trained in the framework and are experienced educators who understand the nuances and rigours of the sector.
Prior to inspection of a school by the NEI, a thorough study is conducted on the students’ performance and the operations of the institution, using data from the school self-evaluation, the school improvement plan, and student assessment.
Schools are assessed based on eight pre-set indicators – school leadership and management; teaching support for learning; students’ academic performance; students’ academic progress; students’ personal and social development; use of human and material resources; curriculum enhancement programmes; and students’ safety, security, health and well-being.
“When conducting assessments, Inspectors will focus on teaching, learning and the systems that a school has put in place to support students’ learning before making any judgements. It is during this phase that the research data gathered in the pre-inspection phase is validated and judgements concretised,” the Chief Inspector informs.
Mrs. Dwyer says in addition to the inspection, the NEI has a responsibility to promote the gains being made in the education system, as well as to make known the areas that require improvement.
She notes, however, that it is not the duty of the NEI to act on what it recommends, but through collaboration with the Ministry and its agencies, refer the empirical data to those who are mandated to act on the recommendations.
For example, data related to teaching and learning, and curriculum support is passed on to the DSS and the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) for action, while data gleaned from the inspections and subsequent research on leadership and management is sent to the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL), and the National Education Trust (NET) for infrastructural development. Data relating to parenting support for schools is submitted to the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC).
Education officers, school leaders and administrators, teachers, and school Boards are also equipped with the data necessary for the institutions for which they are responsible, through the individual school reports that are published and disseminated.
“We are now seeing where the information produced by the NEI, is being used to inform school improvement action plans, and system-wide planning,” Mrs. Dwyer tells JIS News.
Apart from the individual school reports that have been published, the NEI has been actively engaged in conducting thorough research with the data gleaned and has been making recommendations for action and for policy implementation by the Ministry, and to ensure that the quality educational provisions are standardised.
The historic Chief Inspector’s Baseline Report, which paints a picture of system-wide performance, was also published in 2015, after completing inspections of all 953 public primary and secondary schools.
The Chief Inspector advises that the agency intends to broaden its scope of reporting by giving more information on how students value their experiences in school.
“What students think and experience matter,” Mrs. Dwyer says, adding that this approach is key in light of the fact that the Ministry of Education is piloting the National Standards Curriculum, which has been refined to reflect a more learner-centred approach to pedagogy.
“This is a step to overcoming the deficits relating to the quality of the teacher’s pedagogical practice, as our classrooms tend to be teacher-centred instead of being learner-centred,” she says.
The NEI believes in the establishment of partnerships for growth and greater efficiency. Mrs. Dwyer informs that the entity will continue to establish corporate relationships with local and international partners to enhance its capacity to deliver on its mandate.
“We have already been contracted by the Human Employment and Resource Training (HEART) Trust/NTA and the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) to provide inspection training services. Work has also been done with the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) in developing a framework for the provision and administration of internal assessments in schools,” Mrs. Dwyer tells JIS News.
Additionally, the agency has so far been approached by the Ministries of Education in the Turks and Caicos Islands and Belize requesting assistance in the development of a framework similar to that which is used in Jamaica. Opportunities like these will boost the entity’s revenue base.
In keeping with its commitment to transparency and in fulfilment of the requirements of the Access to Information Act, the NEI has been working assiduously to develop and implement a framework to keep its stakeholder constantly informed of its work, initiatives and findings.
The entity will, in the ensuing years, utilise a multiplicity of communication strategies to ensure that this objective has been achieved. It has bolstered its public relations portfolio with the launch of its website (www.nei.org.jm) on which all reports, research findings and information on the agency can be found.