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    • The Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture has launched the Enhancement of Basic Schools Project, aimed at improving the early childhood education system in Jamaica.
    • Funded jointly by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Government of Jamaica at a cost of US$15.8 million, the project will last for three years. The CDB is providing US$13.4 million, while the Government is putting up US$2.4 million.
    • The project has four components - developing a model learning environment; strengthening institutional capacity; quality improvement; and public education.

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture has launched the Enhancement of Basic Schools Project, aimed at improving the early childhood education system in Jamaica.

    Funded jointly by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Government of Jamaica at a cost of US$15.8 million, the project will last for three years. The CDB is providing US$13.4 million, while the Government is putting up US$2.4 million.

    The project has four components – developing a model learning environment; strengthening institutional capacity; quality improvement; and public education.

    Under the project, three new schools will be constructed and nine will be renovated. Three new resource centres will also be constructed and an additional eight will be refurbished. The training component will support the National Council on Technical Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) competence based training for early childhood practitioners and specialized professional courses. Another major area of emphasis will be the promotion of the new regulations governing the operation of the early childhood institutions.

    In his address at the launching yesterday (March 11) at the University of Technology (UTech), State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, Senator Noel Montieth pointed out that the society would benefit from investment in appropriate early childhood intervention activities.

    He noted that the long term effects would include reduction in the risk of school drop-outs, the incidence of drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, crime and violence and welfare reliance. Currently the early childhood population is over 400,000.

    Senator Monteith emphasized that the Government was fully committed to improving early childhood education, and has pursued deliberate strategies of increasing budgetary allocations to the early childhood programme.

    This allocation, he noted, moved from approximately $10 million in 1998 to approximately $715 million in 2002/03.

    “Even as Government increases its contribution to the early childhood sector, we remain committed to the partnership with international lending agencies, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and the local community,” he said.

    Also speaking at the ceremony was Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Marguerite Bowie.

    She noted that this represented the first time that the Ministry was involved in a project with the CDB, adding that the early childhood education movement in Jamaica was one of the best and most enduring examples of partnership.

    Mrs. Bowie pointed out that partnerships have already been formed with the local business community, the University of the West Indies, HEART/ NTA, and international organizations, to enhance early childhood education.

    “To have our own regional organization, the CDB, coming on board at this time, symbolizes not only the growth and development of regionalism but also indicates the worldwide recognition of the importance of early childhood education,” she said.

    “We have managed to reach national consensus on the importance of early childhood education, and the Early Childhood Commission will be in place shortly,” she added.

    Operations Officer at the CDB, Desmond Durant, said the launch marked a significant stage in the development of the project, which was conceived just over five years ago.

    He pointed out that about 88 per cent of children in the three to five age range attended community operated basic schools where there was a wide disparity in the standard and quality of education provided.

    “This project seeks to raise the quality of early childhood education, through the provision of model basic schools and resource centres, which will be appropriately furnished and equipped,” Mr. Durant said.

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