OBSERVER: COME September, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will formally institutionalise a full seven-year high school programme.
Speaking to reporters and editors at last week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, chief education officer Dr Grace McLean said this will be done through the implementation of the Career Advancement Programme across high schools, 67 private institutions, community colleges, and teachers' colleges.
According to Dr McLean, this will see 20,000 students utilising different modalities being added to the 12,000 that matriculate to the traditional sixth form. These students will also leave school with an associate degree, complete tertiary education in shorter times, and subsequently increase the 18 per cent of tertiary graduates locally.
This move, Dr McLean said, models the education system in Finland. At the secondary level, she explained that the first five years of a child's education will focus on equipping them with the fundamental skills required for the general curriculum, then specialisation begins at grades 12 and 13.
“At the high school level there is a general education system up to age 16 then they move into areas like vocation, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and arts. They develop basic educational principles before moving into specialisation and we have started to adopt some elements of that system,” Dr McLean said.
“Having decided to formalise fully and provide opportunities at grades 12 and 13, means that in the first five years we can focus on ensuring that the students now have all the fundamental skills required as it relates to the general curriculum, and then in grades 12 and 13 they can now do the specialisation to complete with an associate degree which is an associate occupational degree, currently being rolled out in the TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) and STEM areas, or an associate degree at Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE),” she said.
The chief education officer further added that the Caribbean Examinations Council is reorganising their suite of CAPE subjects to ensure that the students at the end of grade 13, in each cluster, will have 60 credits tenable at tertiary institutions.
“We are now currently doing the consultations to ensure that the universities will accept these 60 credits, give the students the exemption, and they move on to the other areas,” she said.
And changes are also coming at the early childhood and primary levels.
“At the early childhood level we are now moving into supporting day-care centres — 126 day-care centres funded by the Government for parents below the poverty line to see how we can get to provide the basics they need for their children from ages zero to three.
“In primary schools, while we are not able to have one teacher right through (the Finnish system ensures that at the primary level one teacher takes the students through the six grades to become familiar with them and build on their weaknesses), we are now moving into specialised mathematics and science teachers at that level which we will be piloting this year in about 35 schools. All primary school teachers are generalists, they teach all the subjects, so these specialists will be providing direct support to assist the students in the weak areas.”
Dr McLean added that the MOE is ensuring that the Finnish model is adapted to our cultural context, and completely applicable to the Jamaican environment.
CAPTION: Chief Education Officer, Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Dr. Grace McLean.