JIS News

A new curriculum for early childhood education and development is to be introduced in select institutions across the island starting this September.
The new curriculum, which will be piloted by the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), is in keeping with the government’s thrust to improve the quality of early childhood care in Jamaica.
Speaking with JIS News, Executive Chair of the ECC, Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, said that the move is part of the new requirements of the 2005 Early Childhood Act and its regulations, which will come into effect later this year.
“Research has shown that children require a variety of activities in order to perform well,” she noted, “and the Act requires that we have a comprehensive educational and development programme, designed to meet the development needs of children – their language, physical, cognitive, creative, socio-emotional and school readiness needs”.
“We wish to start piloting the curriculum and look at its effectiveness in the next academic year,” she noted.
Professor Samms-Vaughan said that basic and infant schools in particular, must ensure that they have at least one teacher, who has been trained in early childhood education or development at the tertiary level, in order to be able to effectively administer the new curriculum, which will be incorporated in all institutions, including day care centres and nurseries, in September 2008.
“The law requires that for all schools that have children three years and over, that there should be a trained teacher, and a qualified/trained teacher under the law is one who has a diploma or degree in early childhood education or development,” she explained. While it will not be mandatory for a nursery/day care centre to have a tertiary level trained teacher, Professor Samms-Vaughan pointed out that all caregivers in such institutions will be required by law, to have at least the minimum requirement of a level one certification in early childhood education and development from the National Council on Technical Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET), in order to administer care to children.
“Early childhood development requires particular knowledge about the young child.prior to this (the Act) there was no requirement for persons teaching [or working] in early childhood institutions. When you are working with a young child, it is important to know what you are doing, because in those first few years of life, you are setting the stage for the child’s entire development,” she pointed out.
Turning to other initiatives, Professor Samms-Vaughan informed that the ECC will be incorporating an Early Childhood Readiness Evaluation that will be administered towards the end of the child’s second year, which is before the final year of basic school.
“The basic school programme is typically three years and the reason for doing the readiness evaluation at the end of the second year is to allow for interventions in the third year for children, who need particular assistance, in order to ensure that at the end of that time, everybody can move up to grade one,” she noted.
The evaluation, she told JIS News, will assess the academic and physiological needs of the child. “The evaluation that will be done is not going to focus purely on academics; that evaluation will include the child’s behavioural and emotional status and so if the child needs attention outside of what the teacher or caregiver can provide, [then that child will be given the requisite attention],” she noted.
The ECC is also collaborating with HEART Trust/NTA to develop a new level three training programme, which is expected to come on stream in 2008 and is reviewing the NCTVET level one and two training programmes that pertain to early childhood development and education, with a view to making the curricula more in sync with the requirements of the law.
“The law requires that teachers and caregivers working with children from birth to six know things like first aid.they have to know how to recognize evidence of child abuse.they have to know how to handle blood spills.they have to know how to recognize common childhood illnesses, and know when there is an emergency and when a child needs immediate help,” Professor Samms-Vaughan pointed out.
“All these (and others) are now requirements under the law and we have to ensure that all our training programmes meet these requirements so that when persons graduate, they have the competencies that they need,” she stated.

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