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Higher Education Central to Development Agenda

The Ministry of Education and Youth is focusing on Higher Education as a top priority as part of the Government’s development agenda.

Cabinet has granted approval for the development of a National Higher Education Policy, with the goal of increasing quality assurance and monitoring of higher education institutions.

Addressing the University of Technology (UTech) Jamaica Students’ Union Future of Education ‘Think Tank’ on January 24, Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, said development of the Policy will seek to address the challenges and obstacles to higher education.

“We have put our best minds at the Ministry to think about a higher education policy. They have spent a lot of time speaking to stakeholders and they have also spoken to students as well to just improve how we want higher education to be structured, what it is that we want and how do we align higher education with the labour market and what incentives do we give,” the Minister explained.

Noting that financing tertiary education is a significant challenge for the majority of students, Mrs. Williams said this is one of several areas being closely examined under the policy.

“I believe that financing of tertiary education has to include in it not just what you pay for tuition but also room and board, books and supplies,” she added.

The Minister said with the crafting of the policy, they will also seek to increase the number of students engaged in higher education.

“We want more of our students graduating from high school to take that path to higher education,” she continued.

The Policy will provide a framework that should streamline that sector to work in a cohesive and efficient manner and facilitate the relevant achievements and outcomes of Vision 2030 Jamaica National Development Plan towards national sustainable development.

Education Ministry Places Homestead Primary on Priority List

Homestead Primary and Infant School in St. Catherine will be prioritised for infrastructure improvement and greater interventions to improve staff relationships and student behaviour outcomes.

Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, made the announcement during a visit to the institution today (January 24).

The Minister met with teachers and members of the administrative staff, including the new Board Chairman, Councillor Mark McLean, following a protest staged by teachers at the school last year about internal challenges.

“It was good for me to be here to sit and listen to the [stakeholders], to really understand the issues that are here, but more importantly, to see how we can work on them. Already, the central ministry has intervened in terms of having sessions with the teachers, staff [and] Principal, so they can begin to talk through the issues,” she told JIS News after the meeting.

She informed that issues raised included mutual respect and communication differences that “can be corrected”.

“And these are things that we’re moving to correct, so that our teachers [are] motivated to go into the classroom. We’re going to have as many sessions as that will take, to get all persons here to a point where they’re relating better with each other. There’s no problem here that cannot be fixed,” she emphasised.

On disciplinary measures for students, Mrs. Williams said the Ministry’s Guidance and Counselling Unit will also assist in engaging parents and students on behavioural issues.

“We have to help parents understand that if they have an issue with a teacher, they don’t just come and confront the teacher. There’s a process, [which is] to speak to the principal, allow the principal to speak to the teacher, and help to resolve [the issue],” she added.

Meanwhile, the Minister said that repairs will be carried out soon on the 70-year-old institution.

The newly installed Chairman, while welcoming the intervention, noted that the school also “has some plans in place to alleviate some of the problems that we are having”.

“We’re just trying to build back a bond with the teachers, and this is a work in progress, and we are on our way,” he noted.

Deadline Extended for End Violence in Schools Jingle Competition Entries

The Ministry of Education and Youth (MoEY) has extended the deadline for submission of entries for the ‘JUST MEDZ IT’ End Violence in Schools Jingle Competition to January 27, 2023.

The competition forms part of the year-long End Violence in Schools campaign, which was launched on Children’s Day, May 20, 2022.

The objective of the competition is to showcase the talents of students and their creativity in promoting non-violent means of resolving conflicts. Students throughout Jamaica at the primary and secondary levels, aged eight to 17 years, are eligible to enter.

A student or a group of no more than three can produce and submit in MP4 format a 20-second to 30-second video recording (landscape) along with a completed application form to [email protected] Forms are available at www.moey.gov.jm.

Judging of entries will be based on creativity (jingle should use novel approaches, present fresh insights and not be predictable or clichéd); originality (jingle should be copyright compliant, and if there is use or sampling of any existing lyrics, style, design and melody, it must be sufficiently distinct from the original material); performance or delivery of jingle should be fun, energetic and have a general crowd appeal; and effectiveness in illustrating campaign theme and message.

Schools’ administrators are being encouraged to sensitise and guide the students who wish to participate in this competition.

Students will have an opportunity to vie for trophies for their schools or win devices to include laptops, tablets, and cell phones. The winning jingle will be circulated on both traditional and social media. Winners of the competition will be announced on Friday, February 10, 2023.

For further information, persons can contact the Children’s Affairs and Policy Division, MoEY, via email at [email protected] or call (876) 612-5900/ (876) 612-6116.

Early Childhood Development Centre for Innovation to be Built in St. James

A US$1.5 million Early Childhood Development Centre for Innovation is slated for construction in St. James East Central this year.

This was announced by Tourism Minister and Member of Parliament, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, who said it is intended to break ground in March and complete the institution’s construction in time to be opened for the start of the 2023/24 academic year, in September.

He was speaking during a fundraising dinner to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the East Central St. James Education Fund, at the Half Moon Hotel Conference Centre in Montego Bay, on January 14.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness and Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, headed the officials attending.

Mr. Bartlett said the innovation centre is expected to “change the concept of early-childhood education” in western Jamaica.

“We feel that something is missing in terms of our own programme, and we have to start at the right place, so we decided that we must make amends. That gave birth to the concept of the Early Childhood Development Centre for Innovation, which will cater to 100 children at a time on a revolving basis,” he informed.

Mr. Bartlett said the institution “will be a Climate Action School (CAS)”, through the Take Action Global (TAG) network, and also a designated Ministry of Education and Youth ‘Parent Place’.

He further indicated that the space will define early childhood regionally and internationally, with various teacher-support and exchange programmes, along with parent engagement and training, which will highlight the constituency as “the cutting-edge driver of early-childhood transformation”.

The Minister said the focus on early childhood comes on the heels of a programme that saw more than 10,000 primary, secondary and tertiary students benefiting from $60 million in scholarships over the years.

“This [early-childhood development centre] is the next step in building the human capital in the constituency. We have graduated doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, policemen and preachers.

“Currently, we have students in every high school in the county of Cornwall and other high schools outside of the county. We have students in every teachers’ college in Jamaica, in every university in Jamaica and in universities in the United States, in Canada and in China and Spain,” Mr. Bartlett added.

Against this background, the Minister said he was pleased with the positive impact that the scholarship fund has been having on the lives of students.

Mr. Bartlett added that “in all of this, we find that there are issues that have to do with staying with things that matter, and the way in which we seem to have taught our children to manage their lives and relationships”.

“This is a world where they have to learn how to deal with conflict resolution, with understanding differences, and how they treat with business and other relationships,” he said.

Prime Minister Holness, in commending Mr. Bartlett on his “commitment to education”, said he is very impressed with the initiative, while indicating that “I am very interested in the concept of an early-childhood centre becoming an innovation centre”.

“I want to see the curriculum and the pedagogy to be used in the centre and have already suggested to the Education and Youth Minister, [Hon.] Fayval Williams, [that] this is something she might want to take a special interest in, because it may not only be an education for the learners in terms of innovation, but it might very well be an innovation in teaching,” he added.

Minister Williams, in her remarks, said the innovation centre is aligned with the transformation of education now taking place in Jamaica “and the reimagining that we must do”.

PEP Preparations Advanced

Preparations for the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) are far advanced, says Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams.

Grade-six students are scheduled to sit the Ability Test on February 16; Performance Tasks in Language Arts on March 22 and Mathematics on March 23; and the Curriculum-based Test in Language Arts and Science on April 26, and Mathematics and Social Studies, on April 27.

Mrs. Williams, in her back-to-school message on January 8, said that engagement with the National Standards Curriculum is an important part of the process in getting students ready for the assessment.

“The Curriculum-Based Tests and the Performance Tasks require that students use the knowledge, skills and concepts, to which they should have been exposed, to be adequately prepared for these tests,” she noted.

The Education Minister said that the PEP online portal remains an invaluable support resource for students.

The site can be accessed by logging on at https://moey.gov.jm/primary-exit-profile-pep/.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry has been moving forward in the implementation of the education transformation initiatives.

“We are committed to continue engaging in dialogue with our school communities, our key stakeholders and the wider public through a variety of communication channels to get support for the continuing transformation of the education sector,” Mrs. Williams said.

She said that the Ministry will also continue to focus on implementing the recommendations of the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission (JETC).

The Professor Orlando Patterson-chaired Commission, in its 2021 report put forward recommendations aimed at establishing a comprehensive strategy to improve student performance and educational productivity across the sector.

Already, gains have been made in the areas of governance, administration leadership and legislation; early-childhood education; teaching curriculum, and teacher training; tertiary education, and infrastructure and technology.

Greater Emphasis on the Teaching of Civics

For the new school term, the Ministry of Education and Youth will be placing greater focus on the teaching of civics.

Civics education encourages good citizenship, greater respect for cultural integrity and nation-building, among other things. It has been reintroduced to the National Standards Curriculum at all levels.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, provided details to the media during her interaction with students and staff at the Constant Spring Primary and Junior High School in Kingston, on January 9 the opening day of the new school term.

“We have relaunched civics in school. There will be an emphasis starting this term that all our schools teach civics not just the 95 who are doing so. We have well over 1,000 schools. The curriculum has been put together, it is out, and it is in the schools. We believe it is important for this to happen, so our children are a national pride from a very early age; they understand who they are as Jamaicans and what it is that is required of them,” she said.

The Minister pointed out that the programme is an important addition to the curriculum, which will assist students in gaining a better understanding of who they are as Jamaicans and their development into law-abiding, productive citizens in the future.

In the meantime, the Ministry will be seeking to promote greater involvement of parents in the education process and to facilitate improved channels of communication between parents and schools.

“We want to continue to emphasise that parents are important stakeholders in the business of education and we are calling on parents and teachers for greater cooperation,” the Minister urged.

She said that in those instances where (disgruntled) parents wish to express concern about certain issues, they are to utilise established processes and protocols to communicate and resolve these problems.

“We are really emphasising parent-teacher cooperation and for our parents to see themselves as part of the education system as a support for their children who are in school,” the Minister added.

Gov’t Focused on Expanding Tertiary Education

The Education and Youth Ministry is placing focus on expanding the tertiary education sector with options for students to access financing.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, told JIS News that the objective is to ensure that a “higher percentage of our population is educated at higher levels”.

She said statistics indicate that enrolment of students in tertiary institutions remains low relative to those who graduate from secondary school.

“We know that the limiting factor is generally financing, so we have earnestly worked, all during last year, to look at a higher education policy and look at what kind of ideas we can come forward with on financing,” she said.

Minister Williams was speaking to JIS News after addressing an Interfaith Convocation Service at the University Chapel in St. Andrew on Sunday (December 8), to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of UWI, Mona, Professor Dale Webber said the university, across its five campuses, is working to introduce shorter course options that will cater to students who have to work while pursuing tertiary studies.

“You can also do a one-year diploma or certificate [and] we’re now getting into even shorter courses for three [or] six weeks. They (courses) are all going to be put together in a way where we can determine what we call ‘laddering’. So [a student will do] a bit now, go back to work, do another little bit, go back to work, and you can ladder into a programme,” he explained.

Professor Webber said that the 75th anniversary provides an opportunity to further grow the institution.

“We’re aligning our research with what society needs, and we are being more agile in making it possible, within a shorter time, to reach places that we’ve never gone before. We look forward to sharing with all of Jamaica, the Caribbean, and the world,” he said.

University Registrar and Chief Administrative Officer, Dr. Maurice Smith, informed that several activities are slated to take place in each region to celebrate the institution’s 75th anniversary.

“We have academic conferences, lectures, parties, galas, talent shows [and] we have features to celebrate those awesome members of staff, who have been working across universities,” he noted.

Persons can see a full list of activities to mark the anniversary milestone on the university’s website at http://www.mona.uwi.edu.