Recommendations of Education Task Force will take time to Produce Results – Henry-Wilson


Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Maxine Henry-Wilson, has reiterated that the recommendations of the Task Force on Education would not provide immediate results.
She said it would perhaps take a much longer time than was expected, before changes to the country’s education system begin to produce results that were easily identified by the public. Mrs. Henry-Wilson pointed out that an education reform process would take at least two to three years to effect, because it was attempting to change people’s fundamental behaviour.
The Minister was addressing a group of teachers who recently completed their post-graduate studies in Reading and Language Arts, offered by the Central Connecticut State University, in collaboration with Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College.
“This is not the same as hitting down a building and starting over. You have people in the system already that you will have to transform how they think, how they behave and even then you have to ensure that whatever changes you make, they will take root. So it cannot be a short-term process. The change will take time as any process of change that is not just a one-shot affair will take,” she emphasised.
The Minister highlighted the critical role of teachers in the reform process and nation building, adding that in recognition of that role, the Task Force had proposed “the retooling and upgrading of teachers”. In the meantime, she said teachers were being encouraged to enter teacher-training colleges and to forge partnerships and linkages with offshore universities with a view to diversifying their teaching capabilities.
Commissioned by Prime Minister Patterson in February of last year, the Education Task Force was established primarily, to identify the means of improving the country’s education sector.
In December 2004, Minister Henry-Wilson unveiled a number of initiatives to improve and enhance the delivery of education, some of which will take effect from as early as March 2005.
She said between January and March there would be: diagnostic testing of students to ascertain and apply a remediation programme in literacy skills; development and execution of a citizen education programme to tackle anti-social behaviour; development of the implementation plan and a framework of operation as well as enabling closer and more systematic supervision of the school system.
Meanwhile, as of September this year, parents and students can expect significant changes in their teaching and learning environment, with special emphasis on the upgrading and refurbishing of school facilities.
Outlining other short and medium term changes, Mrs. Henry Wilson said that by March, a comprehensive programme for the preparation of all Board members in the new governance requirements would begin, while secondary and primary school principals would be trained in leadership and management.
She told journalists that already, a performance management and appraisal system developed in accordance with the guidelines of the Public Sector Modernisation Programme, was being introduced in the Ministry and would be put into operation by April 2005.
Also in the medium term, it is expected that school management teams will assume greater responsibility for the management of teaching functions, Regional Educational Authorities (REAs) will be staffed with subject specialists, school Boards will be made accountable to REAs, licensing regulations for teachers will be in place and remedial training specialists will be equipped and deployed to REAs.
Minister Henry-Wilson said legislative changes would have to be made to facilitate recommendations regarding organizational restructuring at the central Ministry level, changes in the terms and conditions of teachers’ employment, the establishment of regional educational authorities and a national quality assurance authority as well as a performance management and appraisal system.
As such, she indicated that revision of the Draft Education Regulations would be fast tracked to meet an April 2005 deadline. In the meantime, agencies would be given interim enabling powers by Cabinet.
Meanwhile, the Education Minister said that separate reviews would be undertaken of the early childhood and tertiary sectors based on their importance in the education process. The Early Childhood Act is scheduled to come before Parliament early this year and a strategic plan is being developed for tertiary education.
On the matter of funding, Minister Henry-Wilson said other extra budgetary sources were being looked at to meet the financing requirements. The government currently provides $30.2 billion annually for funding education and with the initiatives proposed by the Task Force, an additional $22 billion annually for the next two years is expected.

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