JIS News

Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, says that for the first time in Jamaica, national targets for literacy are to be set for primary schools.
“Every primary school principal, before the beginning of each school year, will be set a target for performance in literacy,” Mr. Holness told the House of Representatives Tuesday (July 21).
“The targets may be adjusted upon appeal of the principal, with valid explanation and with the agreement of the Ministry, to a level where it is reasonable to the local circumstances and resources of the school,” he explained. But, once the targets are agreed, they will form part of the performance appraisal system for principals.
Mr. Holness was making his contribution to the 2009/10 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.
He said that literacy targets have not been set for this year, but will be done as soon as the Grade Four Literacy Test results are available. However, from the preliminary data, a minimum five per cent increase in mastery of the first sitting next year would be required. This would mean that, on average, every school would be asked to increase their performance by five percent, he noted.
Mr. Holness said that school boards will be asked to take action against principals who consistently miss their targets; where it is obvious that the repeat rate is growing in the school; where it is apparent that there are no intervention initiatives in the school; and where leadership, on the part of the principal is weak.
He said that principals must design programmes and mobilise parents and stakeholders toward this effort. Most importantly, principals are expected to hold their teachers accountable for results.
“Where there is a genuine lack of skill in conducting literacy interventions on the part of teachers, the Ministry stands ready to support and coach. Where there is a lack of knowledge of structuring and designing special intervention programmes, the Ministry stands ready to assist,” he assured.
“However, where there is a breakdown in staff morale, professional misconduct, absenteeism, dereliction of duty, inefficiency, incompetence, and general disinterest, the principals must act, with the support of their boards, to bring those teachers to account,” he warned.
The Ministry will be publishing the Grade Four Literacy Test percentage mastery by school and region this year, along with other useful information such as class and school size and teacher pupil ratio at Grade Four, he said.
“It is hoped that this will draw national attention and interest in literacy and give useful information for parents, teachers, board members and principals to compare, motivate and spur to action,” Mr. Holness said.
Just under 50,000 students across the island sat the Grade Four Literacy Test on June 18. The results will be made available in mid-August.
Meanwhile, a new version of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Government of Jamaica Expanding Education Horizons programme is now being designed. This programme is aimed at enhancing curriculum delivery and improving literacy and numeracy in 71 primary schools.

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