Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness, is assuring parents that the new registration system, with the accompanying questionnaire, is not a ploy by the government to pry into the lives of citizens, but a genuine strategy to improve data collection and student satisfaction in the education system.
“I want to state categorically that the purpose of the Ministry of Education is to protect, preserve and promote the best interest of the student. It is not in our interest to do anything inimical to students,” Mr. Holness emphasised.
The Minister was speaking at a press briefing, on (October 28), held at his office in Kingston to address parents’ concerns and to outline the Ministry’s rationale for implementing the new system.
Mr. Holness explained that the National Student Registration System (NSRS) is an important part of the Ministry’s thrust towards a data driven decision making process.
Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness (centre), listens attentively to a question at a press conference to outline the Ministry’s rationale for implementing the new student registration system, on October 28. Also listening (from left) are: Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Audrey Sewell and Chief Education Officer, Grace McLean.
He said it is hoped that the system will help to significantly reduce the registration challenges experienced each year in the education system; speed up the registration process; allow more time for data verification; achieve greater accuracy; and result in reduced cost to the Ministry.
All public and private institutions offering primary level education will be required to adopt the minimum standards for the registration of students through the NSRS.
Mr. Holness advised that all the data collected will be kept in the school management system called the Jamaica Schools Administrative Software (JSAS), which he assured, is a highly secured system.
“Schools with Internet access will be able to log into our servers and bring up the information for their schools. So, the schools will be able to mark their registers online, enter the grades of their students online, and they will be able to register all important incidents online,” he informed.
“That is a very important tool for education management, because in short order, in less than 30 days the Ministry will know exactly what is happening in each school in Jamaica,” he noted.
He warned that there are serious consequences for not participating in the registration process, particularly as it relates to the text book programme. “If we don’t know the exact number of students in the schools, we can’t make an accurate order for books,” he informed.
The Minister said what has been happening over the years, is that he Ministry has been ordering books based on estimated numbers, rather than accurate data. “Sometimes we fall short, other times we go over and that’s really bad in a limited budget environment,” he added.
Mr. Holness said that parents have been a bit apprehensive about the questionnaire, which is attached to the form. He pointed out that the questionnaire is optional and that parents can choose to only answer those questions with which they are comfortable.
The Minister said the question that has been giving parents the most concern is the one asking for the monthly combined income of the household. He assured that the Ministry is not using that question to stratify students by income, but rather to ascertain the need for the Programme for Advancement through Health and Education (PATH).
“It would help us to direct our welfare resources, because we would then begin to see clusters where there are real income issues that need attention. It would also begin to give real data to the relationship between income and performance,” he added.
Mr. Holness said the questionnaire would also give an idea of the parental backgrounds of the students, so that educators can get a better understanding of student behaviour and, if necessary, social intervention programmes can be specifically geared toward those pupils.
The Minister conceded that not all questions on the questionnaire were relevant to all students, and as such, the Ministry will be revising the questionnaire based on the grade level.
He noted that there is more co-operation on the part of public schools as opposed to private schools, and the Ministry will be working to improve communication with the private institutions, so that they can more fully understand the new registration process.
The Ministry is also developing an Education Management Information System (EMIS), which will be supported by, and supplied with information from the national student registration form.
The EMIS will create an account for each student in which his/her cumulative records will be stored. To facilitate this, each student will be assigned a unique identification number that will track the student throughout the primary and secondary levels of the system. The permanent student record will include data on attendance, performance, achievement and behaviour.