Advertisement
JIS News

The Secondary Schools Enhancement Programme (SSEP), since its inception five years ago, has brought about significant changes to equality in the education system, by closing the gap between the programme offerings of the traditional high schools and the upgraded institutions.
According to Assistant Chief Education Officer in charge of the Core Curriculum Unit, Winston Forrest, the SSEP has its genesis in a Cabinet decision of 2001, where the government decided to provide funds to upgrade the re-classified secondary schools. The aim was to give these students access to the same resources and programmes as those students of traditional high schools.
Mr. Forrest says at that time, “most of these newly upgraded secondary schools did not have the same support structure [like that] of the traditional schools. Given the time when the traditional schools were established, some of them are over 100 years old.”
These traditional high schools, he elaborates, have established networks of past student associations and “their graduates would have the will, aim and funding to help their alma mater. These newer ones, meaning the newly upgraded schools, did not necessarily have that strong a support structure. It was therefore thought that they needed additional help from the government.”
Twenty-one newly upgraded schools were selected for the programme in the first year and $162 million was granted to them to effect improvement in areas such as literacy and numeracy, information technology, cultural studies, library development and science education.
“These were identified as the crucial areas that could improve the academic performance of students at these schools. The bottom line was to see improved and He explains that for instance, “if a school was interested in improving their library facilities, then the money could be used to purchase books, to put in shelving or even to have Internet access for computers, purchase computers, a printer and so on.”
In addition, he says, “if the school felt the need to bring about changes in the areas of literacy and numeracy, they can purchase remediation software.
These can be accessible in a reading lab that students go to for specialized teaching in order to develop their literacy and numeracy skills, as well as curriculum support materials such as charts, audio visuals materials, that support these skills”.
The Assistant Chief Education Officer notes that in order for schools to qualify for a grant, they have to present a school development or school improvement plan to the Ministry of Education and Youth. “This plan shows what the school wants to achieve over a particular time period, a five-year plan, a three-year plan or even a one-year plan. The plan outlines what they hope to accomplish if they were to receive the SSEP funding,” he explains.
Mr. Forrest further informs that principals and other school personnel are assisted through training workshops and consultations to develop satisfactory plans. These plans are then evaluated by the Ministry’s Steering Committee.
He informs that provided that the development plan is satisfactory, the school will receive a grant at the start of the academic year. The Ministry’s Steering Committee then monitors the schools to ensure that the money is spent on what was stated in the development plan.
“An assessment is also done to determine if the programme has had the desired impact. If the programme does not [have] the impact that was expected, then a supervisory officer would work with that school to assess what could have been done differently, and then he or she works with them to do that,” he says.
Mr. Forrest notes that at the end of the school year, these institutions are required to do an SSEP report, which will assess the student’s performance in all areas. “For instance, we look at their performance in the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC), their participation in competitions such as Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), we have various ways of verifying the impact,” he explains.
He says that some schools may qualify for a “top up” of funds, based on the success of their programmes. One of the schools that has reaped tremendous success from the SSEP is the Papine High School in St. Andrew, which was among the first institutions selected to benefit under the programme. “The SSEP is a wonderful programme”, says Principal, Cynthia Peart.
She tells JIS News that “before our school went on the programme, we had very limited space, especially as it related to laboratories; (they were) very limited and under equipped, so we were very happy when we were selected to be on the programme.” With the money received, the school was able to establish a reading laboratory, she informs, which resulted in significant improvements in the literacy level.
“A number of the students that we have were not reading at their age level. We had 12-year olds and 16-year olds, who were reading below grade one level. so for them to now go into a reading lab with software, they were able to see and touch and have a different way of learning as opposed to reading from the textbooks and the charts that the teachers made. It made a significant impact on the students,” she elaborates.
The principal further informs that under the SSEP, Papine High was also able to refurbish a library, two computer laboratories and two science laboratories – one for agriculture and the other for chemistry and integrated science.
“As a result of these new laboratories, our students were now able to do chemistry as a Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) subject. With the acquisition of the computer laboratories, we were now able to teach information technology as a subject. These were motivating factors for those students, who were not doing well,” she says.
Mrs. Peart notes that the SSEP has brought about “equity in the education that our children receive”. “There is a stigma placed on secondary schools like ours. While we were providing the same quality education, it’s just that we were lacking in some facilities but we were using basically the same syllabus and teaching the same programme,” she points out.
“I really wish that our school would be on the programme again, the benefits are wonderful, the SSEP is a good programme,” she says.
A total of $60 million was allocated under the programme to 17 schools in 2002, with a further $80 million to 20 schools in 2003.