2010 A YEAR OF SUCCESS AND CHALLENGES FOR EDUCATION MINISTRY
BY: ODETTE BARON
|Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, confers with Permanent Secretary, Audrey Sewell (left) and Chief Education Officer, Grace McClean, at the June 1 press conference at Jamaica House to announce the results of the 2010 Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT).|
The year 2010 was an eventful one for the Ministry of Education (MoE), marked by many achievements, and the implementation of programmes to address challenges, as it worked to create a first class education system.
Improved Results for GSAT
On March 25 and 26, some 48,200 students sat the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) for placement in high schools island-wide and following the results in June, it was noted that performance in all subjects had improved, including the critical subjects of Mathematics and Science.
“This year is a unique year, in that for the 11 years that we have had GSAT, all subject areas showed an increase in the mean performance…it means that students are doing better right across the board,” said Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, at a press conference on June 21 at Jamaica House.
|Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness, reads to students of the Drews Avenue Primary School in Kingston, during the final leg of the Western Union Reading Week on April 30.|
Minister Holness informed that the national pass average for Mathematics improved by 4.2 percentage points to 56.9 per cent from 52.7 per cent last year.
“When we look at the trend, we see that it is heading upwards and we are confident that this will continue…in Science, last year, the national average was 53 per cent, this year the national average is 59.6 per cent. Again the trend for Science is upwards,” he emphasised.
Social Studies recorded the highest percentage increase of 6.7 per cent, moving from 52.9 per cent last year to 59.6 per cent, while the national average for Language Arts went up 58 per cent from 56.7 per cent last year, recording the lowest increase of all subjects. Communication Task recorded an average of 66.2 per cent, up from 61.2 per cent.
|A section of the new Fruitful Vale Primary School in Portland, which was opened by Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness in August.|
The Ministry, less than a month later, commenced the unveiling of several proposals, which are expected to significantly change the current structure of the GSAT exam.
Among the proposals presented was the inclusion of a continuous assessment component, which will take the form of a book review done at Grade 5 from a choice of three books that are consistent with the Revised Primary Curriculum. The books will be assigned from Grade 4, with the report due by the end of grade 5. This component is being included to promote reading among children, and other skills such as reasoning and understanding.
GSAT will continue to consist of five distinct papers administered over two days and will be a test of readiness. The five test papers will be Mathematics, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies and a Grade Six Literacy Proficiency Test, which will replace Communications Task.
A committee, comprised of curriculum and assessment specialists, education officers and teachers at the primary and secondary levels, are currently reviewing the recommendations.
CXC Passes Improved
And, while GSAT was being reviewed, Minister Holness announced that there were “significant improvements” in the results of this year’s tests administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).
|Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, teaches students from the Majesty Gardens Basic School in St. Andrew on March 12. The Ministry is placing increased emphasis on early childhood education.|
“In most subject areas of CXC, CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) in particular, performance rose, and we pay particular attention to the increased performance in Math and English, and those improvements were significant,” he told journalists at a press conference held at the Overseas Examinations Commission (OEC) in August, after releasing the results of CSEC and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) to school administrators.
On another note, Cabinet approved the new policy position on Government subsidies for CXC students.
“The new policy will see government subsidies going to students, who have attained a historic grade that would ensure a pass at the actual sitting of the exam. So we would no longer fund the two compulsory subjects and the one other science and information technology subject on a broad scale,” Minister Holness said, while noting that students must have a grade point that will qualify them for funding.
With reference to mathematics, the Education Minister announced that a National Commission on Mathematics would be established. He informed that the National Council on Education (NCE), an advisory body on education, will be charged with assembling the Commission.
|Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness (right), greets Registrar of the Caribbean Examinations Council, Dr. Didacus Jules, as he arrives for a press conference at the Overseas Examinations Commission in Kingston on August 16, to discuss the results of the 2010 examinations.|
“What we will be charging the NCE to do is to look islandwide at all the resources that we have, all the technical resources, all the teaching resources, and select a representative group, and that body will become the National Commission on Mathematics,” he explained. He said that a national campaign will be embarked upon to heighten the awareness and importance of developing students’ numeracy skills with the aim of achieving a 65 per cent pass rate in mathematics at the GSAT level by 2015.
Early Childhood Education
At the early childhood level, Minister Holness announced that the Government will be investing more resources in early childhood education, with the subsidy to the sector to double over the next two years. In the meantime, the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) launched its ‘We Have Rights Too’ booklet, which Minister Holness emphasised should be made available to all parents.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Ministry of Education and the Mutual Building Societies Foundation, for a Centre of Excellence Project, aimed at improving the management systems and teaching methodologies in six non-traditional high schools. The schools are Mile Gully, Porus, McGrath, Seaforth, Green Pond, and Godfrey Stewart.
Minister Holness also pointed out that all new schools will be operated under a centre of excellence scheme of management.
“The principal and administrative leadership of the schools will be placed under a performance-based contract. This is a new thrust towards improving the performance of our schools, so that we can create more preferred spaces to accommodate those students who are improving their performance at GSAT and who deserve a preferred place in our education system,” the Minister said.
New Schools Came on Stream
As it relates to infrastructural development, three new schools came into operation in September offering over 2000 spaces. They are Fruitful Vale Primary in Portland and Sheffield Primary in Westmoreland, each offering 525 spaces and Steer Town High in St. Ann, with 1,200 spaces.
Three additional classrooms are being constructed at the Foga Road High school in Clarendon, while pre-construction activities for two new high schools in Cedar Grove, St. Catherine and Mandeville High in Manchester, are in progress.
A new classroom block, to ease overcrowding at the Maverley Primary and Junior High school was officially handed over at a ceremony at the school on May 5.
In addition, the Nain Basic School and Resource Centre in St. Elizabeth was opened in September under the Ministry’s Basic School Project. Contracts were also awarded under the project for the construction of five additional basic schools and resource centres in Arthur Wint, Hanover; Torrington, Westmoreland; Nain, St. Elizabeth (which has since been completed); Foga Road, Clarendon and St. Francis in Kingston.
Cabinet, in 2010, approved the establishment of a special school in Malvern, St. Elizabeth, to accommodate students with disruptive behaviour in the education system.
Minister Holness stated that by January 2011, the school should be up and running and would be able to accommodate at least 50 students at its opening. The students will have exposure to different programmes, including psychology, behaviour management as well as their regular school curriculum.
On September 23, the governments of Jamaica and Brazil signed a contract worth approximately US$5 million for the expansion and refurbishing of the Portmore branch of the HEART Trust/NTA in St. Catherine.
The project, which should be completed within 24 months, will provide the institution with the capacity to offer high level training and certification in the areas of masonry, finishing, locksmith works, welding, carpentry, water and gas works, telecommunications, cabinet making, and electricity, better enabling the institution to respond to needs in a number of sectors, particularly the hospitality industry.
CAP Phase 2 Junior Achievement Jamaica Launched
Phase two of the Career Advancement Programme (CAP) was rolled out to another 54 schools last year, bringing the total to 65 schools. Minister Holness said that the aim is to increase enrolment to about 20,000 students.
Junior Achievement Jamaica, which seeks to ensure that students are fully prepared for the world of work, was officially launched on May 6. Under the initiative, a cadre of dedicated volunteers from the public and private sectors will work with secondary school students in classrooms and after school settings, to help them develop economic literacy, entrepreneurial and financial management skills.
Minister Holness said that the programme represents an investment in nation building. “I am very happy that we are…placing within the schools, this project, which will support the economy. This is not just an exercise in education, but this is an exercise in ensuring our recovery from crisis,” he stated.
The Education System Transformation Programme (ESTP), which will give greater focus to the reform of the systems, business processes and quality of the sector was also officially launched in June.
“The objective is to remove the quality gap…it is not just about talking (about) standards…we have to document standards, and part of the approach now is that everything that we do in education, there must be a standard that is set for it, documented (and) widely circulated within the Ministry, and our schools,” Minister Holness explained at the launch.
A National Education Trust was formed to make it easier for local and overseas interests to donate to Jamaican schools.
“We must not frustrate philanthropy and so the Trust is designed to give the givers more information to make their giving aligned and more effective,” the Minister emphasised.
Grade Seven Intervention
Nearing the end of the year, a Grade Seven Intervention Programme (GSIP) was introduced to benefit approximately 10,000 students from 80 high schools. The GSIP will provide strategic support to Grade Seven students who received cut scores of 33 per cent and below, in this year’s GSAT Language Arts Exam.
All in all, the activities from the MOE in 2010 signal that there are many developments to come in the new year to benefit all students, parents and other stakeholders in education.