JIS: THE Ministry of Education says it is on track to phase out the remaining all-age and junior high schools in the Jamaican education system, as well as those operated on a shift system, over the next three years.
There are currently 31 schools in the all-age and junior high category, while 42 are operated on shift.
“I did commit to remove as many schools as possible off shift and to phase out the all-age component in three years. We are almost there as we only have one per cent more to get out there,” Reid told journalists at a press conference Thursday where the 2017 Grade Six Achievement Test scores for 2017 were released.
“Pretty much where we are right now and the building programme that we have in place, I will say that within three years for the phase-out.”
Based on their Grade Six Acheivement Test scores, the ministry placed 568 students in all-age and junior high schools this year, a reduction of 46 per cent compared to 2016, when the figure was 1,051. This brings the total number of students who are part of the all-age and junior high cohort to approximately 5,800.
“The figures have been declining year after year,” chief education officer Dr Grace McLean added.
With regard to phasing out the remaining shift schools, Minister Reid indicated that 17 new schools as well as additional classrooms and infrastructure are required.
“Comfortably, we need 17 new schools to take some of the current shift schools off shift, and by building some additional classrooms. But we are way advanced in terms of our infrastructure programme,” he disclosed.
“We have already approached a multinational agency that has preapproved for us US$52 million to build five critical schools within the next three years or so. For the resources that we have, we are adding capacity to the shift system schools that they can become full-day schools, and again, we have a three-year deadline,” he added.
Minister Reid declined naming the multi-national agency which has earmarked the funds.
On the subject of the phase out, however, he argued that the move will ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend school until age 18.
“Our policy now, which is like most of the developed countries, by the way, is to give the students up to grade 12. So, following on the legacy of the prime minister, we are now carrying forward the CAP (Career Advancement Programme) to ensure that every student gets an opportunity to go to grade 13, stay in school until age 18 mandatory. We feel that if you do that, the probability of them getting higher post-secondary education is much higher. And that will be the strategy of the ministry, to build the kind of human resource that we'll need to push the productivity that we will require,” Reid explained.
CAP is a Government of Jamaica initiative designed to address the high number of learners who complete high school without any formal certification and have not matriculated to post-secondary level education or work. It focuses on providing opportunities for learners aged 16-18 to identify, understand, choose, and prepare for careers and occupations of their choices. The programme is facilitated under the Compulsory Education Policy (CEP), which is to ensure that all children aged 3-18 are attached to, and attending structured learning/education and training programmes appropriate to their age and development.
“So age 18 will be a very critical age where we're going to test the level of academic achievements for our students. What has happened to us culturally is that we've had retarded opportunities, so majority of our students couldn't get beyond grade 11. Only 30 per cent tends to go beyond grade 11, and for many of those, we give them many opportunities,” said Reid.
According to ministry statistics, the country has a total number of 952 public schools. One hundred and sixty-six are high schools, while the remainder is spread across the primary, all-age and junior high category.