JIS News

The Education Transformation Programme, of the Ministry of Education recently hosted a group of nine educators from England, who were in the island to examine the impact of visual arts on students’ behaviour and academic performance, among other things.
The visit of the group is in keeping with the annual study calls to the island, by educators identified by the League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers, explained Workstream Lead, School Leadership and Management of the Education Transformation Programme, Maurice Smith.
“Every year, the League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers, which is a British-based educational entity, identifies a number of countries to which it can send British teachers to basically explore particular themes related to education. For the last three years, Jamaica has been getting at least two study visits each year and previously, we have focussed on a number of issues relating to policy, literacy and leadership,” he told JIS News.
Continuing, he noted, that “the visit that we are now hosting is basically focussing on visual arts and how the arts are used to promote teaching and learning, transition from grade to grade and also to look at how the arts are used to deal with issues relating to stakeholder involvement and parental support. The group that has come out is also interested in the actual content that is delivered through the curriculum here, as far as visual arts are concerned and also interested in looking at the methodologies and the strategies and how visual arts are integrated with the culture”.
The educators, who are from Salford in England, arrived in the island on October 24 and departed last Friday (Oct. 31). The theme of their study visit was ‘Raising self esteem and attitudes to learning through visual arts in inner city Schools’ and in addition to interfacing with the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts, they paid keen attention to four schools, which are deemed to be strong in visual arts. These are Windward Road Primary and Junior High, Balcombe Drive Primary and Junior High, Denham Town High School and Holy Trinity High, also in Kingston.
According to Mr. Smith, the focus on visual arts resulted from the needs that the teachers have. “It is they.who decides what the focus is each year. We simply prepare a programme to respond to their needs, so the teachers here are actually teachers of visual arts and are using the arts to bridge the gap as far as curriculum behaviour and parental involvement is concerned,” he told JIS News.
He stated that the feedback from the local and overseas teachers towards the programme has been absolutely fantastic.
“It has illuminated the fact that kids are kids and that human beings regardless of where they are, basically have the same challenges, so all the local teachers here are very excited because they are sitting down and sharing ideas. They are looking at best practices, they understand that the British teachers, who may have access to far more resources, are still not able to achieve the kinds of results that we achieve in our situation, despite not having as many resources as they do. So our Jamaican teachers have been very excited in getting from them their ideas but even more excited in sharing what it is they have been doing in Jamaica and so the feedback has been absolutely wonderful,” Mr. Smith told JIS News.
In the meantime, Vice Principal of the Albion High School in Manchester, Juli Barnes, who participated in the programme, expressed her delight in the study visit. “It has been absolutely amazing. It surpassed [my] expectations,” she stated, while highlighting that the most significant part of the visit was to “see the commitment of teachers and staff to be successful regardless of resources, making the best of what they have”.
The study visit is the fifth to have taken place since 2005 and Mr. Smith has stated that plans are underway for a sustained programme.
“We have brought into the mix, the Technical and Vocational Unit of the Ministry of Education because they are part of the discussions [to see] how we can concretise and ensure sustainability of the methodologies and the information that is being relayed from Jamaica to the United Kingdom (UK) and vice versa. The schools are forging links, the issues relating to curriculum are being integrated, a formalised partnership is actually being struck between the schools there in the UK and Jamaica…so the formal partnerships, which are and continue to be arranged, are one vehicle through which the aims of the programme will be sustained,” he pointed out.