Mr Speaker, I wish to thank the Most Honourable Prime Minister for his timely establishment of the National Task Force on Education, which has provided for us a strategic foundation on which we must continue to build to create a globally competitive world-class education system. Not only has he taken a positive stand for education again, but he has translated this into significant financial support for the system. Prime Minister, we resolve to carry forward your mandate to make a quantum leap in quality, to pay the country significant dividends in return for the confidence and investment you have provided.
Permit me also to thank the majority of the Jamaican people for sustained interest in education which was reflected in their participation in developing the validated shared vision which will be our lodestar in the creation of the transformed education system.
A special thanks to the teachers, principals and caregivers in the current teaching and learning environment, many of whom have shown tenacity and cooperation and understanding and who continue to give of their best to produce the quality students needed for the development of this country
During this year, we saw the advent of that un-welcomed visitor – Hurricane Ivan. Many of us despaired for the education system. However, even in the most undesirable physical situations, parents, teachers, communities and students resolved to keep the system going. To them I say thanks.
I thank the JTA for its cooperation and efforts in implementing several programmes. The cordial relationship very often led to quick and amicable resolution of several sticky issues
I would like to publicly record my thanks to the former Permanent Secretary, Mrs Marguerite Bowie who gave over 38 years of sterling service in the education ministry, 12 of those in the very hot seat of Permanent Secretary and to Miss Jacqueline Lucie Smith who took up the mantle in the interim and did an excellent job.
I want to welcome Mrs Maria Jones, who herself has had a distinguished career in the public sector and who is known for her transformational leadership.
I thank the staff of the Ministry – its directors, unit heads and committed workers who have kept the system going. FOCUS OF PRESENTATION
The most honourable Prime Minister has made my task so much easier by playing a memorable innings two weeks ago. During that intervention, he left no doubt in our minds as to what he expected from us in the education sector.
Mr Speaker, last year I challenged all of us to rise and re-build our education system. I am heartened by the obvious resolve of a wide cross section of the Jamaican society to work with the system so that we will have a sound and secure future. Indeed, the statement,”Education is everybody’s business,” is being translated each day into a value by which more Jamaicans live.
The series of Round Tables I held with stakeholders in the education sector last year, resulted in the articulation of a national shared vision. The vision painted the ideal Jamaica as one in which:
each learner will maximize his/her potential in an enriching learner-centred education environment with maximum use of learning technologies supported by committed qualified competent effective and professional educators and staff
The education system will be equitable and accessible with full attendance to Grade 11. Accountability, transparency and performance Are the hallmarks of a system that is excellent, self-sustaining, resourced and welcomes full stakeholder participation
The Task Force Report itself identified some of the minimum performance targets, which must be attained to realise the vision. These include:
Mastery in all four areas of the Grade 1 Readiness Inventory by at least 90% of our students in that grade cohort. Mastery at the Grade 4 level by at least 95% of our students in that cohort.
Mastery at Grade 6 by at least 85% of the students
Attainment of no less than a Grade III in four CSEC subjects including Math and English by 60% of the Grade 11 age cohort
To have citizens committed to lifelong learning, 50% of the students exiting secondary level must be enrolled in a tertiary or post secondary institutions.
Mr Speaker, if we want citizens equipped with education and competencies to compete globally, we must have 100% of our working age citizens – 25 and over – achieving internationally recognised certification including certificates, diplomas and degrees.
If we have all our schools providing co-curricular activities at both primary and secondary levels and all our students participating in at least two of them, then Mr Speaker, we would have learners realising their potential.
As the Prime Minister indicated to this House, earlier this year, we will begin to introduce those programmes and actions that will help us realise the targets. There are currently projects that have provided us with the experience and the elements that can be generalised throughout the system to take us to the goal of a globally competitive system. Where those exist, we will not re-invent the wheel. The ultimate objective will be to achieve a transformed education system that is capable of producing students at all levels who compare favourably with their counterparts at the highest international standards.
I want to indicate that this is not a nine-day wonder. While we should see increments of improvement as we do remedial interventions, the actual radical changes (ie from the roots) will take some five to six years to manifest themselves. This is based on the introduction of a transformed early childhood system.
The challenge Mr Speaker, is to maintain access, while contending with the quality imperative. So, today, the cornerstone of my presentation hinges on the mechanisms, interventions and programmes that we have and will continue to implement in order to treat with the quality imperative at all levels of the system, but particularly at the first line of defence – Early Childhood Education. This of course will be presented within the context of the recommendations of the Task Force and the actions being undertaken by the Transformation Team to operationalise the recommendations. I will also be focusing on
the strategies being undertaken by the Ministry in tandem with the Transformation Team in creating a conducive teaching and learning environment
the strategic plan of action for tertiary education
culture as a potent vehicle for transmission of values and attitudes and job creation as well as
treating with anti-social behaviours
Later on my colleague minister with responsibility for Youth will address training and employment opportunities for school leavers and unattached youth as well as the use of ICT in education.
The overall educational output is painfully reflected in our literacy levels, with approximately 75% of our population functionally literate. This has had ripple effects on employment and subsequently on the wider socio-economic development of our society. We intend to start with the foundation in addressing this.
Quality Early Childhood Development
By the time children start pre-school, there are already wide differences in what they know and how they behave. Without the appropriate interventions, these differences at best persist throughout the rest of their school years, but they often widen. It is therefore important that education and behaviour be seen as a continuum, from birth through to the primary and secondary years. Programmes to promote children’s development, improve their academic achievement and reduce violent and aggressive behaviours should begin before children enter pre-school but must be reinforced by an effective educational system.
The Honourable Prime Minister had already noted provisions for parenting education to sustain early childhood care and development for the first three years of the child’s life: the first will require collaboration with the Ministry of Health for the design of standardised parenting and child development programmes to be delivered through the Health Centres and Community Clinics. Already parents and children attend these clinics for regular baby checks during the first three years of life. The aim is to “piggy back” on these services and integrate these messages and methodologies in these areas of service delivery.
The second will be achieved by the strengthening and replication of the Roving Care Givers Programme to give parenting support to parents from deep rural and inner city areas, who seldom visit the clinics. Mr Speaker: The Roving Care Givers programme already has proven success in Jamaica and has received international acclaim and has been adopted in many other countries.
Despite parenting education, however, worldwide, some 10-15% of a country’s children are known to have developmental or psycho-social problems which will prevent them from being ready for pre-school. Early identification and appropriate intervention can dramatically reduce the effects of developmental problems on children’s later learning. Screening of children for developmental, behavioural and psychosocial problems will be instituted in the first few years of life.
A screening programme however, requires a number of processes including the development of the screening instrument and a clear plan for services for children who have been identified with developmental, behavioural or psychosocial problems.
During this year, Mr Speaker, the screening instrument will be developed. The Early Childhood Commission, in association with other Early Childhood Development parties such as the UWI and the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, has already started that process. Screening is best done using existing service delivery points, so again a partnership will be forged with the Ministry of Health.
The service requirements, such as the need for trained development therapists and specialists will also be determined during this year. The next step would be the training of the therapists to meet the country’s needs.
The majority of children are attending basic school between three and five years. During this year, the Early Childhood Act and the Regulations and Standards for the monitoring of pre-schools will come into effect, ensuring that all Early Childhood Institutions have adequate provisions for the development of children. The Act and Regulations speak to:
Character of applicant and employeesPhysical surroundingsSafety of institutionsProgrammes for Child DevelopmentQualifications of staff
After satisfying the Act and Regulations, institutions would already be at acceptable levels for the promotion of child development. The Standards provide institutions with further motivation to move their school from acceptable to good. It provides more details in all areas and for each specification. A school is graded in three categories:
Needs Improvement,Acceptable andGood.
Schools and their Boards or Management Committees will be provided with the Standards rating, as a road map to improvement.
Piloting of Registration Process
The registration process will be piloted in the next few months to identify any unforeseen difficulties and ensure that the full process runs smoothly.
Situation Analysis for Early Childhood InstitutionsMr Speaker: At the beginning of the new school term, a situation analysis of all pre-schools will be done to determine where institutions are with regard to the Act, Regulations and Standards. This will allow accurate determination of the investment that will be required to bring institutions up to the required acceptable levels.
Teaching StaffHuman Resource Needs Study
All of us speak of the community early childhood centres that are merely baby-sitting services. The improvement in training of teachers in the sector is critical to ensuring optimal development of children. The Act and Regulation have set minimum qualifications for teaching staff at Early Childhood Institutions as Level I of HEART/NTA competency based training programme. The Task Force Report advocates Level II. The Commission will ultimately move to this, but considers Level I as satisfactory in the interim.
The intention is to continue improving the qualification of teachers at this important stage of children’s development. The staffing needs of the country’s early childhood institutions will be determined from the situation analysis and human resource needs will be matched against the capacity of training institutions.
Last year, Mr Speaker, we placed 265 college-trained teachers in Early Childhood Institutions in all regions: 43 in region 1; 33 in Region II; 48 in Region III; 54 in region IV; 44 in Region V and 43 in Region VI – a seemingly small number Mr Speaker, but it takes a minimum of three years to complete the training. This year we have 714 early childhood practitioners in full time and part time training at Teachers’ Colleges to augment the existing 265. We also promised that another 480 practitioners would be trained under the Enhancement of Basic School Project by Summer 2005. We have delivered. Mr Speaker all 480 Level II practitioners participated in residential training at Sam Sharpe, Shortwood and St Josephs Teachers’ Colleges and will complete the second phase of the programme during this summer.
Mr Speaker, much has been said about the number of untrained caregivers that we have at the Early Childhood Level. The HEART Trust/ NTA/ Technical Vocational Education and Training programme provides training to international certifiable standards Over 6, 000 of our caregivers have received competency -based training at Level 1 and some at level II and new practitioners have now been enrolled for certification.
Career Path Development
We believe that early childhood should not merely be a career stepping stone but a substantive professional career. A career path in the early childhood sector will be developed to ensure that persons who enter the system at any level will have opportunities to advance their training. This will require articulation of existing programmes. The Prime Minister has already announced the laying of the foundation for the physical facilities to house the Early Childhood Institute at Shortwood Teachers’ College. This institute will drive the training and development needs of the sector. The UWI has embarked on a Master of Education Leadership in Early Childhood Development programme to help strengthen the leadership and management capacities of caregivers and administrators at this level. This will also provide scope for some upward movement in career development.
As of June 4, 2005, we will be sending five early childhood principals and three supervisors to participate in a programme in Toronto, Canada that will give them additional exposure to EC development practices and strategies. These are all designed to provide the sector with the quality managers and teachers to ensure that the youngest ones get out of the starters’ block with a bang, instead of a whimper.
Engaging Full Stakeholder through Public Education
I would like us all to note that improving the quality of early childhood education will require the input of all stakeholders including civil society, communities and parents. Mr Speaker, we intend to engage all our stakeholders in early childhood development. To this end, a national public education programme on the importance of the early years and the new Act, Regulations and Standards has started and will continue throughout the year.
We are inviting our stakeholders to arrange appropriate fora for this purpose. If you believe in development, then you must believe that to achieve sustainable national development you must make early childhood education your business. Hence you need to know the current thinking in the sector.
Quality Issues at the Primary Level
The functional rate at the Primary level as indicated by the Grade 4 Literacy Test and the GSAT results, while showing some measure of improvement is still well below desirable standards. A complex of factors contribute to this and a blend of strategies has to be used to treat with this. Firstly, we intend to win the fight against illiteracy by expanding existing programmes to provide national remediation at strategic points. These programmes include:
Literacy Support System to Readiness in Grade 1Grade 4 Literacy interventionGrade 7 Intervention
Grade 1 Readiness Intervention
An analysis of the Grade 1 Readiness Inventory for this year revealed that the children have the greatest difficulties in Visual and Auditory Perception. (Mr Speaker, we are deafening them with loud decibels) These children would therefore have difficulties in accessing the Grade 1 curriculum, especially the acquisition of literacy skills. The Literacy System Support to Readiness in Grade 1 has been developed to identify and alleviate these difficulties.
We have piloted this system among students in twenty-four (24) selected schools in rural and Inner City communities. It is hoped that through appropriate diagnosis, children with special needs would be identified and these needs addressed. The impact of selected strategies and techniques would inform a gradual system-wide intervention, beginning with 20 schools in each region, come September This is in accordance with the national remediation recommended by the Task Force.
In the coming year, we continue to strengthen this programme by training more supervisory and curriculum support officers in the use of specific literacy strategies; augmenting the existing support materials; assigning at least three supervisory officers per region on a phased basis; reviewing the qualifications and training of teachers at Grade 1 so that only those with Early Childhood or Primary Education training be placed in Grade 1; evaluating the impact of the programme and tracking students’ progress through the use of appropriate management information systems such as the Jamaica Schools Administrative Software (JSAS).
In the past, the administration of the Grade 1 Inventory has been unsystematic and the analysis of the outcomes statistically unreliable, consequently, the interventions have either been late or not systematically applied. The Task Force has recommended that the inventory be taken in May/June when students are registered for Grade 1 in primary schools. While it is not possible to achieve this in the current academic year, the approach to be taken will ensure an improved application of the instrument, more reliable analysis and more targeted intervention with appropriate methodologies, materials and supports.
The Early Childhood Commission will be working with the Core Curriculum and Student Assessment Unit to achieve this.
Secondly, Mr Speaker, we have been introducing, through the Revised Primary Curriculum, greater use of a variety of alternative teaching strategies to cater to both boys and girls and to ensure that learning experiences are student rather than teacher centred. This is the essence of our conviction that every child can learn and every child will and must, if we recognise the varying learning styles and capacities of our children – one size does not fit all!
Grade 4 Literacy
Each year the Ministry organises summer (day) camps for students who do not attain satisfactory levels of mastery in Reading. The 2005 summer literacy programme has been developed to provide greater impact on learners at the non-mastery level, bringing us closer to achieving the target of 95% of the cohort.
In keeping with the shared vision for education, we are working towards securing a blend of well-trained specialists and volunteers to assist in remediation at this level.
Selection of volunteer teachers will take place earlier in the process to facilitate extended training.
The mix of teachers will be drawn from literacy specialists, grade teachers, teachers in training and national youth service volunteers as teacher aides.
Training in literacy strategies and methodologies will be provided over one week starting June 27, 2005.
The mix of resource teachers has been developed to promote a wider impact within the education system.
In keeping with our vision for full stakeholder participation, the private sector orgamisations will be identified and approached to contribute to the enhanced summer literacy programme in respect of planning, releasing personnel for participation, provision of lunches, transportation and procurement of materials. Parental participation in both the support of learning and also in actual learning has also been identified as a desired output. Mr speaker, the nature and extent of this participation will be detailed subsequent to further consultation by the Transformation Team, by May 17, 2005.
The use of learning technologies was previously impeded by reluctance of schools proximate to the location of the camps to lend their equipment. The Transformation Team having considered this will now undertake to cover equipment transfer costs and repair and replacement costs of equipment used in the programme.
In this summer programme Mr Speaker, learners will enjoy more individual attention with a reduced ratio of 15 students to one teacher.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Early Childhood Commission, we will be implementing an auditory and visual screening and referral programme to ensure that children are physically ready for instruction at their pace.
Thirdly, Mr Speaker, we aim to increase efficiency through the rationalization of teacher education and we continue to strengthen the teaching capacities of over 8, 542 teachers, who were trained to deliver the Revised Primary Curriculum, through in-service and mentorship programmes driven by the Ministry’s professional development unit.
Last year September, we identified and sensitised 164 beginning teachers for the mentorship programme and selected, trained and assigned over 104 mentors. Since February, we identified another set of over 80 mentors who have just completed training and have been assigned to beginning teachers. In an effort to provide incentives for our mentors and other teachers we have collaborated with LASCO to develop a Salute the Teachers programme, which we hope will get off the ground by the coming academic year.
In addition, all schools – primary and secondary – have been encouraged and supported in developing their own school-based staff development programme. The expertise and resource persons are usually available from the Ministry to give technical support to the process. The schools must be commended for the initiative they have shown in developing seminars, which treat pointedly with some of the performance gaps of their teachers.
We have also started work on the implementation of site-based integrated teaching strategies and support materials. Those teachers have also been exposed to training in assessment strategies as well as how to interpret and use the results of assessments to guide future planning for instruction at the primary level.
Support textual materials have also been developed in collaboration with Carlong Publishers, so that our students now have culturally friendly materials to support the curriculum.
Under PESP, a new literacy intervention strategy has been developed called Language Experience Awareness that will support the underlying principles of the Revised Primary Curriculum. This is at the very core of our target to have 90% of our students achieving mastery in the Grade 4 Literacy. While we will be testing our methodologies through 30 identified pilot schools, this is definitely one of the areas, which we will need to examine to determine whether it should be cascaded through the entire primary system.
In addition, Mr Speaker, we have identified 15 pilot schools for instructional technology and provided training equipment and materials to enable the use of IT in curriculum delivery. Nineteen (19) of 21 demonstration schools have received funds to develop best practices in collaboration with teacher training colleges.
New Horizons for Primary Schools
Last Monday and Tuesday, May 2-3, the Jamaica Conference Centre came alive with the energy and sound of students, teachers, parents and other educators who benefited from the New Horizons for Primary Schools Project. This is a holistic intervention in 72 schools that have confirmed and re-affirmed that through collective focussed and innovative leadership, we can raise the bar of achievement. The literacy levels in those primary schools have in some cases moved from a low of 16% to a high of 50%. The GSAT results for those schools have also trended up. With the collaboration of partners such as USAID, the lessons learnt from the New Horizon for Primary Schools will be looking at how we can institutionalise this in the remaining 733 schools as it moves from project to programme.
The JLS Supporting Reading and quality Education
Mr Speaker, at this point I would like to acknowledge the significant contribution of the Jamaica Library Service in its bid to promote literacy and improve quality among schools through its varied services including ICT services, and reading programmes: The Public Library Network surpassed targets for information delivery by satisfying 1.9 million requests for reference and information material.
The Jamaica Library Service is presently strengthening its capacity to support E-Learning and E-Commerce. It is now the nation’s largest provider of Internet access to the public. Of the 93 libraries offering ICT services, Internet access is available at 86 locations. This has resulted in greater facilitation of access to users’ islandwide and highlighted a growing trend for clients using the Internet to conduct more business on-line and to position the libraries to support E-learning. At many libraries the use of the ICT services was one of the primary sources available for students to prepare their School Based Assessment (SBA) projects.
The School Library Network conducted seminars in four (4) regions for Two Hundred & Fifty Seven (257) Teacher/Librarians. The seminars highlighted the use of the ICT in the school libraries, integration of the library and the curriculum and promotion of libraries for an informed school community. Levels of interaction and cooperation between the school libraries have shown marked improvement since the seminars were held.
Promoting literacy through Reading competitions
The 17th renewal of the Jamaica Library Service’s National Reading Competition saw unprecedented success. There was an outpouring of corporate support to undergird the Libray’s drive to create and strengthen the reading habit in children and adults and to foster an appreciation of good literature and the development of good comprehension and language skills. We thank the major sponsors for 2004: Kingston Bookshop, Television Jamaica Limited, and Cable and Wireless Foundation. This was the first year that highlighted adult competitors in the final segment on national television. The response from the public and from schools islandwide attested to a significant increase in interest levels.
The inaugural National Reading Fair was held at Emancipation Park on October 16, 2004. Under the theme: Those who read will succeed. This showcased the champions of the National Reading Competition and the work of local and international authors and provided opportunities for public interaction with local authors and publishers.
The partnership with Restaurants of Jamaica (KFC) continues to flourish with the opening of homework centres and reading corners at the Linstead Branch Library and the Glasspole Avenue Branch Library. Special assistance will come from volunteers who will help children with remedial reading and homework in prescribed subject areas.
Service to the visual impaired in two (2) parish networks and to three (3) correctional institutions continued during the year. Plans are far advanced to broaden the outreach to all networks.
The implementation of a Local Area Network as the precursor to a Wide Area Network through funding from CHASE will maximize efficiencies in communication to impact sharing and relaying information for clients’ reference and research needs and for administrative purposes.
The year saw the successful implementation of the recovery process to repair libraries damaged by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. This was facilitated by funding of over Three Million Dollars ($3M) from the Digicel Foundation through the Office of National Reconstruction. The tremendous efforts of citizens to secure library premises and property during Hurricane Ivan attested to the commitment of communities to education.
This year through the provision of additional funding, the JLS will be making a special thrust to improve school libraries. This is critical to our commitment to ensure ready availability of appropriate reading material for our students. To the leaders and staff of the JLS, I say well done.
Children with Special Needs
Mr Speaker, there is heightened awareness of the numbers of students with learning challenges of one sort or the other. We have embraced an inclusive model in our schools and have provided in the teachers’ college curriculum a module for all teachers in the fundamentals of treating with children with special needs. However, this is less than adequate in dealing with the numbers and the various disabilities. Our special education unit is fine-tuning a policy framework that will assist us in broadening the scope of support and services for these children. In the meantime:
the UWI has been contracted to conduct research in Region 6 comprising St Catherine and Clarendon which has the largest concentration of students, to identify students at the primary level with specific learning difficulties to inform appropriate intervention with a view of replicating this study to a larger population to determine issues relevant to the education of the special needs population in Jamaica.
approval has been granted for the building of a special school on the grounds of the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College to accommodate students with special needs from early childhood to secondary level to facilitate early stimulation and vocational training
We have also increased significantly, provisions for special examination accommodations and curriculum support materials for students with special needs.
RAISING THE BAR OF SECONDARY EDUCATION
Over the past year there has been much debate about the vexed issue of the grading of secondary schools. Issues such as the quality of the students placed in schools, the unevenness of teaching and learning infrastructure, and the community environment within which the school operates and the socio-economic circumstances of parents have all been identified as variables that impact the schools’ performance.Our aim must be to create at all schools an environment conducive to learning and to make them perform to acceptable standards. Mr Speaker, we must remove the stigma of failing schools where students have little chance of achieving.
Fixing the primary system is of course the long-term answer. The other must be improving the quality of the teaching and learning environment. Most of the new secondary schools have new physical structure but are overcrowded with inadequate facilities.
Where reading rooms, science computer laboratories and other support systems were created; those in many instances have had to be absorbed as regular classrooms. A number of our schools are shift schools without the requisite holding areas and transitional arrangements. Every effort must be made to correct these deficiencies, and a start will be made this year.
The enhanced use of Information and Communication Technology is one plank on which the delivery of education will be based. The Prime Minister has already announced the introduction of a major E-learning project. When my colleague Minister Honourable Donald Rhodd comes to speak he will provide details on this.
Literacy and Numeracy Interventions at the Secondary level
Mr Speaker, the issue of the level of literacy is one, which we also have to address at the secondary level. In addition to developing and introducing an intervention at Grade 7 – much of that you have heard the Prime Minister address – we intend to strengthen the interventions under the ROSE II Project.
Under the School Improvement Planning component of ROSE II, grants are provided to selected schools to finance literacy and numeracy interventions at Grades 7-9. The project had made provisions for 198 schools to benefit from this initiative at a cost of J$475.2 million, over five years. To date, budget allocation has allowed us to work with only 99 All Age, Primary and Junior High, Upgraded High and two Vocational Schools, spread across all six (6) regions. The allocation to schools is based on the number of students entering the particular school at Grade 7 (through the GSAT examination) with scores of 30% or less in Mathematics and Language Arts. Schools will receive grants ranging from J$ 900,000 to J$ 9,000,000, payable in 6-monthly tranches over a three year period.
In keeping with the operational guidelines of the project, prior to receiving funds, schools’ personnel (Principals, Vice-Principals, Bursars and Board Chairmen) were trained in:
School development planningProcurement proceduresFinancial Management and Reporting
By the end of the fiscal year, 2004/2005 (Year 2 of the Project):
Training was completed for 500 participants in all schools
All 99 schools prepared and submitted 3-year School Improvement Plans
80 of the 99 Plans have been approved
57 schools had received their first payments of 25% of their allocated amount
57 schools had commenced implementation
More emphasis will be placed on ensuring that Grade 7 students who are also functioning below the grade level competencies are given assistance to bring them up to standard. The return of reading rooms, competency shelters, computer rooms and appropriate guidance and counselling facilities are among the expanded measures to be taken.
The CSEC Intervention
The country as a whole has expressed its dissatisfaction with the results of the CXC/CSEC examinations. These results are troubling as they are seen as the measure not only of the output of our system but of our competitiveness with our Caribbean neighbours. This year we introduced a specific CSEC short-term intervention in 65 schools to assist students with content, comprehension strategies and study skills and teachers with teaching strategies.
Students have participated in several camps conducted at eight sites across Jamaica in January by specialist teachers in Math and English and have stated the extent to which they had benefited from the content and study skills shared with them in these camps.
Two-day and 3-day workshops were also conducted for teachers for Grade 11 teachers in November and December and
schools, education officers and subject specialists have been monitoring students who participated in camps to ensure effective transfer of learning and continuity in the schools.
We will be expanding this intervention to include Grades 9 and 10. We are also looking to re-scope the programme to include more schools.
We will eventually merge aspects of this intervention with the E-Learning project and use it as vehicle through which our high schools students can have greater access to a variety of teaching and learning strategies as well as access to the best teachers in the business without space becoming a problem.
CREATING AN ENVIRONMENT CONDUCIVE TO LEARNING
The success of children in school depends not only on the readiness of children for school but also on the readiness of schools for the children. This signals the need for quality physical classroom environments to be available to the children in our schools.
Those of us who visit schools must concur with the observations by the Task Force that, “while there is high enrolment at the early childhood level, the quality of the space in most facilities is substandard. At the primary level, universal access is at the expense of massive overcrowding, particularly in the urban areas on the other hand.” The following flows from these observations and are largely recommended actions from the Task Force but significantly incorporate some ongoing work by the Ministry’s staff.
We need to rationalize the system to produce two school types (K- 6, primary and 7-12, secondary). Primary education or the transitional year will be at age five.
All primary, primary and junior high and all age schools are to be converted to one of the two types – primary or secondary.
An audit of space utilization in the school system is being conducted. There is massive overcrowding particularly in urban areas. By contrast, there are several schools especially in remote rural areas that are underpopulated. The survey carried out by the Planning and Development Division of the Ministry largely identified the latter. This information will allow us to identify the space needs rationally.
Data from government agencies namely National Housing Trust, National Housing Development Corporation, National Environment Protection Agency and JAMPRO provide us with projected settlement patterns and investment activities. This information complemented with population data provided by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica and the Planning Institute of Jamaica has allowed us to project the additional spaces required in the growth areas in the next 5-10 years. This work has not been completed and is critical to attaining and maintaining universal education.
Based on the standards of facilities in all the island’s schools, as announced by the Prime Minister, currently three sets of building and maintenance programmes are to be implemented. Expansion in 11 schoolsBringing over 200 schools to required minimum standardsBuilding replacement and expansion programmes under IDB, World Bank and Government of Jamaica funded programmes. The transformation team is addressing these issues.
In terms of the 11 schools, a modified tendering process has been agreed to with the National Contracts Commission. This should allow the bidding process to take place in three stages and the award of the first set of contracts by June 4-11, 2005. The process will be done in accordance with the NCC’s stipulations with advertisements for expression of interest by suitably qualified contracting firms scheduled to appear in the newspaper over the coming week-end.
The Honourable Prime Minister did not announce the names of over 200 schools, which are selected based on the need to begin to bring them up to minimum standards of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health. We now have the preliminary list of schools identified by the stakeholders using a number of variables.
Mr Speaker I will give you some timelines for this:
All schools including Central Branch Infant have already been identified
Bills of quantity will be in place by month-end
Modality for effecting repairs and refurbishing (ie awarding of contracts or provision of grants where it is certain that schools have the capacity to effect their own repairs) will be ascertained by month-end
By mid June contracts will be awarded or grants given
Work should start no later than July 5, 2005 and where work can progress during school, for example waterproofing a roof, this will start before July.
It is anticipated that all schools will be in a state of readiness come September 5, 2005.
The school building and refurbishing programme is a not a kind of bonanza. It is aimed at providing the teaching and learning environment within which children can do their best. Hence the programme will be the name of the game.
SCHOOL FEE ASSISTANCE
Since the Prime Minister’s announcement of the revised School Fee Assistance programme, officers of the Ministry have computed the figures for each school, identifying the increases necessary to bring each school up to a minimum fee of $7, 500. The government’s portion of this will be 50% in accordance with what the fees were in 2002/03. This will also incorporate the cost for textbook rental translating into parents paying a low of $2, 700 to a high of $4, 500 depending on the school and its existing fees in 2002/03.
A preliminary meeting was held to share this information with the presidents of the Association of Principals. All schools can obtain the information relating to their specific institution from their regional offices during the course of this week.Over the years, there has been an aberration in the provision of texts in Junior High schools and Grades 7 -9 of All Age schools with students being required to pay a small access fee. With this matter having been brought to the attention of the Honourable Prime Minister and his determination to ensure equity effective 2005/06, students in All Age and Junior High schools will now access their books without paying as the Government will now absorb these costs.
The Provision of grants and subsidy for School Feeding Programme is being rationalized to ensure that more students benefit:
Every primary school will continue to receive government subsidized lunch programme
PATH beneficiaries and wards of the state will receive lunch at no cost
Other students in every institution where there is a government subsidized lunch programme will benefit from either cooked lunch or snacks.
Public secondary schools operating a lunch programme not financed / subsidized by government will receive a grant to provide lunch for all Path beneficiaries and wards of the state.
QUALITY TEACHER PERFORMANCE
The issue of quality and performance of the teaching cohort must also be placed squarely on the agenda if the secondary school system is to perform to requisite standards. The country generally recognises and pays tribute to the commitment and contribution of our teachers. We are aware of the difficult circumstances under which they work and the new and quite frankly anti-social behaviour and attitude of some students, parents and communities with which they have to contend. At the end of the day, however as a country, we depend on education – very broadly defined – as the critical ingredient in the national development mix. Our teachers are central to this.
The issue of the preparation of our teachers for the formidable task is a relevant one. Concerns have been raised about the level of the entry qualifications to our teachers colleges and the curricular of these colleges.
The infrastructure of our teachers colleges is well below the standard required. All these matters, while being addressed must be given greater prominence in the strategic plan being developed for the tertiary sector. The aim, as recommended by the Task Force, is to ensure that all teachers complete a Bachelors degree in education. Holders of degrees in a subject discipline with no teacher training must complete at least a diploma in teacher education.
Issues relating to the professional re-tooling and continuous education as pre-requisites for continued employment in the classroom will be addressed. The introduction of a licensing and re-certification system for all teachers in Jamaica are among the matters that will be addressed in the course of the financial year. Our usual consultative approach will be employed in this matter
QUALITY THROUGH GREATER ACCOUNTABILITY
The issue of management and organisation of teaching at the classroom level and accountability in that context has once again been brought to into sharp relief in the Task Force Report. Even before I received the report however, we have been acutely aware of the need to strengthen the accountability mechanisms, which should redound to greater quality teaching and learning in the classroom, even while developing the teachers professionally.
Last year, I promised you the development and implementation of a system-wide teacher evaluation programme that would be consistent with the culture of each school and sensitive to the context in which our teachers work. The programme would be designed to develop all members of the teaching staff from infant to secondary and to make them more accountable for raising the bar of achievement of our nation’s children. Mr Speaker, I promised; I delivered. The Teacher Performance Evaluation programme has been fully developed; relevant training conducted and is currently being implemented in schools islandwide.
Copies of the procedures manual and evaluation instruments have been distributed to schools. Evaluation teams have been organized at the school level and education officers are now monitoring the process. Come September, Mr Speaker, the evaluation programme will be operational system-wide. I hasten to note Mr Speaker that it is not a punitive but rather a diagnostic and ultimately corrective mechanism. Mr Speaker, I want to thank the Jamaica Teachers Association for working hand-in-hand with us in the development and implementation of the programme.
Mr Speaker we have been strengthening the leadership and management capacity of principals at the primary level through the training of 805 primary schools principals under the Primary Education Support Project. This is a partnership between Jamaica and the Mt St Vincent University in Halifax and will be later institutionalized and offered through three teacher training colleges. By June of this year, we will complete training of 238 more principals bringing to 495, the number already trained with 310 to be trained by June 2006. The final batch of principals is now being recruited with over 400 applications
Mr Speaker, the programme will become a requirement for aspiring primary schools and provides a gateway for further studies in educational management at the graduate level. It will also be expanded and extended to principals of secondary schools.
Total Quality Management and Leadership
There has been general agreement that school-based management is not as effective as required due to poorly delegated responsibility and authority at the school level. Both the KMPG Report in 1990 and the Task Force Report concur with the view that for schools to succeed they need:
A strong effective board
A responsive principal displaying strong leadership
Responsibility and management of the teaching function by principals, vice principals and heads of department.
Mr Speaker monitoring, supervision and accountability are at the heart of successful teaching and learning.
Education officers currently assume the role of monitoring and supervision of the operations of the schools as well as carrying out several core functions such as curriculum development, assessment of evaluation of student performance. A number of the supervisory functions by territorial officers overlap with some of the functions of the school leadership. The Task Force Report states that “one consequence of this current arrangement is a culture of dependence on the education officer and on the central Ministry.” Mr Speaker, everything floats to the top for a solution. There is little room for encouragement of innovation at the school level.
A key element of the transformation process will be the establishment of Regional Education Authorities. Functionally, these will go far beyond the current regional offices and will be semi-autonomous agencies under the Ministry’s portfolio to monitor school performance and provide specialists such as psychologists, guidance counsellors, reading specialists who can be employed to the REAs and be deployed perhaps on a school cluster basis. Teams such as those for curriculum implementation, for intervention into specific aspects of teaching and learning at the school site will be constituted and deployed as needed.
The vision is for a paradigm shift from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture being at the centre of education to the institutions of learning being central and other organisations including the Ministry, assuming support for the learning process. Mr Speaker, this is a cyclical team-based approached and not a colonial hierarchical posture. Greater collaboration; more effective communication; improved management and leadership are some of the many benefits to be derived from this re-defined structure and relationship.
Last week Wednesday, Mr Speaker, in his speech at the inaugural awards function for the presentation of the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation to Teachers for Service, the Prime Minister accurately defined, once again, the crucial importance of Tertiary Education. In a nutshell, it provides the value added; it is the real stimulus for economic growth, development and social cohesion as it creates the skilled manpower, the capacity for problem definition and problem solving as well as the generation of ideas and innovation.
Both external and internal forces have compelled us to re-think our approach to Post-Secondary and Tertiary education. We have heard repeatedly of external factors such as
The worldwide tertiary educational climate prompting greater cooperation as all tertiary institutions seek new markets with the resultant proliferation of offshore institutions
The growing role of Information and Communication Technology in the deliver y of education
The introduction of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, which will create a demand for tertiary education and training to facilitate the movement of skilled labour in the Region.
Given all of the above, the policies governing tertiary education must be modern and up-to-date. They must speak to appropriate registration of institutions including
the governance of cross border tertiary offerings
the staffing requirements of institutions both national and cross border
the national accreditation framework – its consistency and its compatibility with the emerging CARICOM regional accreditation framework which are all critical for quality assurance and
matters of equivalencies and lateral movements across institutions
Mr Speaker there is also the vexed question of financing to ensure quality and access while confronting the reality of the international decline in government funding for tertiary education. The Task Force Report speaks to a target of 50% of the population attaining post secondary and tertiary level education by 2015. This is the minimum we must attain if we are to achieve that global competitive edge. There needs to be articulation between post secondary and tertiary institutions if we are to optimise our available resources.
Community colleges offer the best and most practical ‘as is,’ ‘where is’ educational opportunities. Mature students who cannot leave home to study, individuals who want to qualify in foundational subjects should be able to do so close to home. The concept of the community colleges is of a flexible institution to which courses can be franchised and diverse subjects at various levels offered. Currently, some of the community colleges offer introductory courses for the UWI and UTECH. They have expanded their offsite campuses to strategic locations to allow for flexible accessibility.
Virtual universities and post secondary options represent the wave of the present. The expenditure on lofty physical structures scattered throughout the countryside offer low economies. Instead, existing structures such as church halls and community facilities are fast becoming programme delivery centres. Yet our community colleges are woefully in need of investments to allow them to render the flexible, proactive course delivery indispensable to our achieving that 50% tertiary graduate corps. It is through these institutions that we will move closer to these objectives.
We speak to our teachers colleges where the moulders of minds of our children are prepared. If their preparation is flawed or faulty, any prospect of creating a world-class education system is a pipe dream. Under the umbrella of the Joint Board of Teacher Education (JBTE), the colleges are examining degree-granting status. Many of them have existing collaborative arrangements with local and offshore universities. But these have to increase and be standardised. The Mico College for example has announced its plans for moving to degree-granting status. Other colleges are working on their proposals.
Quality assurance is critical and so the University Council of Jamaica and other monitoring and regulatory entities must be buttressed. Similarly, the colleges themselves need significant investment to make them worthy of their designation of teacher training institutions.
A massive investment in an IT backbone infrastructure has resulted in the eight (8) colleges being connected. This kind of linkage within and between institutions is inevitable if a genuine tertiary network with the required synergies is to be created. We need a modern network rather than a scattering of tertiary institutions. So the new ICT backbone is a welcomed introduction. Fundamental to this is our consideration of the role of offshore institutions. Mr Speaker, is it the case of a genie having escaped from the bottle or does it represent new opportunities both for diversity in the academic offerings to our people for a new sphere for economic activity?
All these Mr Speaker, are issues, which we must consider and represent in a viable strategic plan. Individual institutions – UTECH, UWI, NCU – are determining their own niche and clientele but they all need to be of ‘a piece’ of a mosaic that fits neatly together. This is the purpose of our strategic planning process to address:
Institutional mandateBudgeting processesComplement manningEnrolmentQuality assurance and accreditationPolicy requiring registration and accreditation of programmes/ institutions to agreed standards
The Task Force on Education recommended the establishment of a Tertiary Commission to manage the governance of the sector. The implementation of this is planned in the short term. The role of the Commission would be to govern the development and implementation of policy at the macro level and coordinate quality assurance and accreditation of all institutions, articulation between institutions and tertiary financing inter alia.
ADDRESSING THE ISSUE OF ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOURS I think if there is one thing on which we have consensus is that the social fabric of our society and the foundations on which this was sewn, including Home, Church and School are being ripped apart. We need to act now. If education is going be one of catalysts for social transformation then we can no longer have a hidden curriculum for values and attitudes. This will now have to form part of the academic curriculum.
To this end Mr Speaker, the transformation team has been benchmarking various models and will develop a Civics and Moral Education Curriculum to strengthen existing curricular in the Early Childhood, Primary and Secondary Schools. This curriculum seeks to build in the children the requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes that will ultimately empower them to deal adequately with competing and conflicting demands while holding firmly to their moral integrity and fulfilling their roles as responsible citizens. The content of such curriculum will include topics such as character building, bonding with family, sense of belonging to school, what it means to be part of a society; societal norms and values. The overarching goal is to nurture a whole and balanced person, with a strong sense of moral values, good interpersonal skills, who will contribute to the well being of society.
In the meantime Mr Speaker, the multi-sectoral strategy for the reduction of violence in schools – now named the Safe Schools Programme – introduced late last year continues to make an incremental difference in the 114 schools in which it is being implemented. Funding has been secured for the programme and a coordinator, which resides in the Ministry of National Security, is now in place.
Work plans have been developed for all components and sensitization has been conducted for all principals whose schools are in the programme.
We recognize Mr Speaker the old behaviour modification strategy – time out – has become even more applicable to students who persistently disrupt the teaching and learning environment with serious and questionable behaviours.
Such students invariably need counseling and strategies to effect a behaviour change. This cannot be adequately done within the confines of classroom and teaching sessions. We are convinced Mr Speaker that even those whom we ask to withdraw from the formal teaching and learning environment because of disruptive behaviours or potential threat to the lives of others or any other gross behaviour disorders deserve a second chance and can be re-integrated into the system after appropriate treatment. We believe that youngsters who are properly guided and counseled can change their behaviour and become achieving, constructive members of the school and wider community.
It is based on this conviction that the Ministry is currently examining a proposal to develop an Adjustment and Social Integration programme in which students between the ages of 13- 17 who have been expelled in accordance with the Education Regulations will be considered for a special treatment in behaviour modification, while continuing with their academic programme outside of the formal system. Their re-integration into the formal system will depend on how well they benefit from this treatment.
There are other options to be considered such as placements in secondary programmes in the non-formal system; placement in programmes run by the Ministry of Justice and placement in special education and transformation centers depending on the magnitude of the students behavoural problems. Currently we are looking at other similar such interventions internationally and locally, including the programme run last summer in Portmore to see what methods and strategies that can be adopted.
The Adjustment and Social Integration Programme (ASIP) will be anchored in the Regional Education Authorities and be monitored for compliance by an officer with special responsibility for the programme. The programme will also consider what support services and coping strategies can be offered to parents and how they can be involved in helping their children to effect a positive behaviour change.
The programme will also include a rigorous academic component consistent with the achievement and promise of the participant.
It will be sensitive to the social situations of participants and attempt to make up deficits, which would otherwise negatively impact participants’ efforts to succeed.
Last year we examined a proposal to systematically increase the number of guidance counselors and retain the services of psychologists where necessary in schools. Limited resources somewhat derailed the plan. However, this is a matter that has to be addressed as a priority in the coming year as it is an important vehicle in treating with the increase of anti-social behaviours among our students.
Mr Speaker, we have noted and collaborated with the Ministry of Health and its sponsors in their efforts to help us rid our schools of violence through a comprehensive education campaign under the theme: Violence is Preventable: Together we all.can. This programme targeted children and youths using several strategies:
The integration of structured supervised activities such as sport and music with linkages to community based and religious based organizations
Creative methods of enhancing literacy and life-skill through conflict management and the building of self-esteem
Behavioural surveillance and the use of Geographic Information Systems to track performance and monitor and evaluate interventions
Sport for all programme to ensure that children at all levels participate in supervised exercise.
Promote healthy meals in schools and have vendors certified by the Ministry of Health
Use competitions such as drama, arts and JCDC competitions with healthy lifestyle focus
Use programmes such as NYS, Safe Schools, New Horizons for Primary Schools, Inner City Schools and Change from Within to target interventions
Mr Speaker this is testimony to tremendous impact that can be achieved through an inter-ministerial approach to combating violence and I would like to commend the Ministry of Health for spearheading the initiative.
CULTURE IN EDUCATION
As we grapple with exigencies of national development and the impact of globalisation, it is imperative that we know who we are as a people while displaying resilience in the global environment. This sentiment is captured in the Taskforce Report as a key component of the educated Jamaican as one who is socially aware and responsible; conscious of what is good for society, committed to a sustainable lifestyle rooted in his or her Jamaican smaddiness.
This is the foundation of the creativity, our appreciation and acceptance of diversity, our ability to discern and embrace what is moral and what is ethical, harnessing the promise and the cultivating of the spirit of adventure and entrepreneurship necessary for creatively confronting the challenges of life and respect for other citizens and the environment. These are the requirements of the sovereign learner and a sovereign people.
The Cultural policy is a vehicle that defines a series of desirable outcomes consistent with our vision. Culture is an important content that we now try to weave throughout the curricula from Early Childhood to Tertiary. The Integrated Arts Curricula as well as the enhancement of secondary education speak to content and methodologies of delivery that promote creativity, self-expression and awareness of self and environment. Culture agents are being trained and deployed in schools to expand our children’s knowledge through cultural activities.
For this purpose, we have embraced the concept of an integrated approach to cultural development. This is manifested in the mechanism of coordination we have established in the inter-ministerial Inter Agency Committee for Culture. This Inter-ministerial grouping brings together on a regular scale our agency heads to plan and share in common defined goals and objectives. It is our intention this year to take it at the ministerial level through the re-establishment of the National Council on Cultural Affairs.
These synergies among our culture agencies represent another milestone towards which we are moving. We have begun to see a greater synergy between the JCDC and curriculum development especially in relation to culture and the Arts as methodology for education delivery.
The Edna Manley College of Visual & Performing Arts is also integral to this process as we prepare our children to achieve artistic excellence. The College carries the responsibility for the sensitisation and training of our teachers in the role of culture in acquiring and demonstrating personal discipline, self-confidence and a sense of community. We will be promoting even greater collaboration between JCDC and Edna Manley College to hone and develop the strong artistic talents of our children and young people.
The Institute of Jamaica must also be a part of this process. As the repository of Jamaica’s cultural history and heritage, the Institute and the National Library will develop a mechanism of deeper collaboration with curriculum development to promote indigenous knowledge both in technology and science as well as general awareness. This will be fundamental to our thrust for greater cultural identity.
Through the Culture in Education Programme we will encourage our schools to develop and promote rituals of good citizenship and positive interaction. We are also developing programmes to commemorate important days in our nation’s history, such as Chinese and Indian Arrival days, Jamaica Day, Africa Liberation Day, important days in Maroon history, in Rastafari; so that our children will celebrate our diversity on a regular scale and so learn tolerance through recognition and acceptance. Ultimately, this Programme affords our children the opportunity to hone their talents and manifest positive attitudes and values.
Another area of cultural input is our cultural enrichment programme for inner city schools. This programme seeks to promote a series of actions and activities destined to enhance and transform inner city schools.
Based on the notions of the importance of cultural access and equity as well as environmental and social change, the cultural enrichment programme will promote such activities as stronger performing and visual arts offerings, cultural enterprise and entrepreneurship, academic development strategies, exposure to excellence, and community animation. For example, we will emphasize environmental change and special homework programmes for the children as well as parenting programmes for the parents.
Next, Mr. Speaker, we go to culture as making a living. I believe for too long we have ignored the economic and commercial value of culture. Mr. Speaker, while we must ensure that commercialisation does not supersede identity concepts in the promotion of cultural activities, we need to recognize the value of culture for employment generation and wealth creation.
Mr. Speaker, Cultural industries are the fastest growing sector of the world economy. We need to take advantage of the value of Brand Jamaica and create more opportunities for the development and enhancement of our cultural product through the establishment of greater training opportunities, more determined and targeted marketing strategies, and the strengthening of our intellectual property regimes and collection societies.
The focus on cultural industries provides another opportunity for job creation and therefore reduction of unemployment among the youth population. So many of our young people demonstrate tremendous raw talent in this area and it behoves us to increase the scope and level of training for professional expression and technical know-how. This is quite important as we seek to strengthen the foundation of our cultural industries, especially the music industry, so ably laid by industry persona.
Further, Government will facilitate a series of consultations toward the enhancement of cultural industries, among which are the following: the development of mechanisms for the free movement of cultural workers within the CSME, the promotion of discussion on culture and trade issues, greater regulation and formalization of the sector, the promotion of associations.
In the area of culture and the arts: a solid foundation has been laid by the exponents of the various art forms. We salute the culture enterprise of this nation. Our task is to secure the future of cultural industries through the important work of the agencies to be found across government ministries. For example, we will promote intellectual property in our schools and institutions. We will also strengthen the capacity of our institutions to engage in the marketing and promotion of our cultural products, so that such outstanding companies as Kingston Drummers, Tivoli Gardens Dance Group, Clonmel Folk Group and CARIFOLK may be able to take greater advantage of the opportunities internationally for advancement.
Mr. Speaker, this leads me to say a bit about the foundation laid over the past 42 years by the JCDC. We look forward to the National Festival of the Arts, which provides our children and young people with opportunities for cultural expression, self-confidence building and achievement. We also are able to offer our people, especially young people, opportunities to embrace the folk culture and thereby to recognize the culture bearers in our communities.
This year we will be seeking wider opportunities for the JCDC’s products to be marketed internationally. We celebrate the talented Jamaican children and young people who year after year, with their teachers and coaches, enhance the stages of Jamaica. In this regard, we will promote greater synergy between JCDC, Edna Manley College, JBDC and JAMPRO.
Mr Speaker permit me to pause and recognize our reigning Festival Queen for her achievement, especially in Atlanta, Georgia where she made history as the first Caribbean national to address that State’s Legislature – a product of the education system Mr Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, we must recognize as well the role of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust in the preservation and conservation of our heritage. The Trust will this year increase its activity in the area of signage at national sites and monuments.
They are also determined to provide storyboards across Jamaica in order to promote greater national awareness of our history.
Mr. Speaker, our culture defines us even as we define our culture. Government’s role is not to create culture but to facilitate the creation of culture by our people by providing and facilitating the platform for cultural action. Our culture has been our solid foundation.
The mission must be to engage it in order to secure a better brighter future for our children. Our culture gives us hope and optimism. It engenders pride and resilience.
Mr Speaker, I wish to thank the Most Honourable Prime Minister for his timely establishment of the National Task Force on Education, which has provided for us a strategic foundation on which we must continue to build to create a globally competitive world-class education system. Not only has he taken a positive stand for education again, but he has translated this into significant financial support for the system. Prime Minister, we resolve to carry forward your mandate to make a quantum leap in quality, to pay the country significant dividends in return for the confidence and investment you have provided.