MANDEVILLE – Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, is urging parents, whose children are placed in the Alternative Secondary Transitional Education Programme (ASTEP) to provide them with the necessary support to get them to the required standard.
The Minister, who was addressing a sensitisation session on the programme at the Bishop Gibson High School in Mandeville on March 17, said that ASTEP is the best option for students, who are performing below grade level.
“If your child ends up in the ASTEP programme, maybe, that is the best place for them, because that is where we will be able to deal with their special needs and address the issues and factors that affect their performance,” he stated.
ASTEP has been established by the Ministry of Education to assist primary school students, who have not achieved mastery of the Grade Four Literacy Test, even after several tries, and are therefore ineligible to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) to move on to high school.
Under the programme, students will be placed in centres established in selected primary, all-age, and primary and junior high schools and, over a two-year period, will receive the necessary intervention and intensive support to successfully transition to secondary school without having to sit GSAT.
ASTEP will commence in September with approximately 6,000 primary school children expected to benefit.
“The intention is not to keep the child on an alternative path to secondary education. The child is guaranteed two years in ASTEP but they will be assessed constantly and as soon as we find that they are able to transition…we will allow them to go into a secondary school,” Minister Holness told the parents in attendance.
“We are going to ensure that we don’t turn out students, who would not have a chance to be successful in life, and that’s what ASTEP is about. Our strategy is to ensure that zero children fail,” he added.
Stating that the academic performance of many students is affected by environmental factors, Minister Holness said that ASTEP will provide them with the space to overcome those challenges. In addition to the reading, literacy, and numeracy specialists, who will work with the students, counselling resources will be made available for those who face parental problems and other social issues.
“It is not only about the ABCs; it is going to be about (teaching students to) value themselves and raising their self-esteem so that they can do well. It will engage parents to have a better understanding of their children’s needs,” the Minister stated.
He said the expectation is that the number of students placed in the programme will decrease every year, and, “as we empower parents with knowledge early in the educational life of the child, the possibility of the child ending up in the ASTEP programme will be less."
By GARFIELD L. ANGUS, JIS Reporter