Madame Speaker,

We are now in the second week of the Easter term for the 2020-2021 school year and I take this opportunity to provide an update on the status of the face-to-face resumption of teaching in schools and plans for this term, the Own Your Own device and the One Laptop or Tablet Per Child Initiatives.

At the beginning of this term starting on January 4, 2021, Madame Speaker, 129 schools were approved for face-to-face teaching and learning. These schools are allowed a two week period from January 4 to the 18th to fine-tune their preparations for schooling. We expect that more schools will be added to the list as the Ministry of Health and Wellness continues its physical inspections of schools. As of today, 76 schools have actually started.

Madame Speaker, the focus for this term is the preparation of children for their exit exams: CSEC, City & Guilds, CAPE, NCTVET and the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) exams. Grades 6 students at the primary level are scheduled to sit the first of three components of the PEP exam – the Ability Test, on February 23, 2021.

Primary Exit Profile (PEP)
We are aware of the challenges and so the Ministry has strategically scheduled the Ability Test first, as this test is not based on the children having been taught the body of subjects in the National Standards Curriculum.

The results of the Ability Test in February will give us a sense of the potential rather than just the academic performance of our children. It will alert us as to what our children are capable of doing so we can adequately prepare them for the Performance Task and the Curriculum Based Test which are based on the National Standards Curriculum and come later in May 2021.

The focus between now and February 23, 2021 will be on getting our students in a frame of mind to successfully sit the Ability Test which comprises 40 multiple choice questions during a period of 1.5 hours.

The Ministry will be offering additional Special Learning Interventions.

Students will be provided with fully-funded access to Edufocal and One on One Educational Service in preparation for PEP and other external exams.

Madame Speaker, we should note too that the Ministry has provided support to the vulnerable student population by enabling access to the internet via reverse billing and negotiated for education data plans at reduced rates. This intervention has nevertheless served in this prevailing period of the Covid-19 Pandemic to provide a degree of connectivity that enables participation by vulnerable students (poor and near poor) in the remote teaching and learning environment.

Madam Speaker, Additionally, a mobile student support initiative will be launched on January 18, 2021 to focus on the students who need further support. The Ministry will be providing after-school classes to small groups of five for two hours twice per week using the schools, church halls, community centres, USF community access points, the Jamaica Library Service locations and other temporary learning spaces.

Madame Speaker, we are grateful for the support and cooperation from our stakeholders, as well as for the useful suggestions from principals and teachers. We will continue with our consultations and fine-tune all our efforts as we move forward together.

Application Status Update
As of Thursday, December 31, 2020, the application deadline, there was a total of 17,773 applications submitted to the electronic system. This represents 49% of the target. Persons will soon begin to get the eVouchers through e-mail and SMS telling them of the $20,000 and giving instructions as to how to redeem and with the names of the approved vendor who have agreed to the to minimum specifications and eligibility requirements. There are 13 approved vendors spanning across 101 locations across the island.

We understand the issues that many persons encountered with their TRN and Student Registration Number (SRN). All students who are enrolled in the education sector has an SRN, which is given in Grade 1 or if you entered in a different grade and it remains with the students throughout their school life until they graduate high school.

During the course of having announced the OYOD, 21,120 persons would have called or emailed the Ministry requesting the SRN for their children. All of the 21,120 persons were either told what their child’s SRN is or if the child was not registered, for some reason, then the registration would be completed. Obviously, there would have been verification before the SRN information was released.

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