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Education Ministry Reports Successful Start to 2022/23 Academic Year

The Ministry of Education and Youth is reporting a successful first day of the full resumption of schools for the 2022/23 academic year.

This is the first time that the Ministry has authorised the return of full, in-person learning in schools for the beginning of a new school year, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several schools did not open today, as they are still holding orientation sessions. It is anticipated that these institutions will officially reopen next week.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, and other Ministry officials toured the Franklyn Town Primary, Mountain View Primary, and Maverley Primary and Infant Schools in the Corporate Area on Monday (September 5) to assess activities for the full resumption of schools.

Speaking with journalists during her tour of Mountain View Primary School, Mrs. Williams said the Ministry will, this year, be increasing its efforts to address the issue of learning loss and improve student performance.

“Beyond bringing students back into the normal school environment and doing the regular things that we have to do; we have to realise that we would have lost a bit over the last two years. So, we have to [redouble our efforts] now to ensure that our children recover [to] where they were, at least prior to when we entered the pandemic and even beyond that,” she stated.

Mrs. Williams said the Ministry will be placing emphasis on recognising and addressing challenges faced by students and employing the necessary interventions to address these.

“There will be a lot of focus this year on ensuring our students who are on the different paths, and that would have been communicated on their Primary Exit Profile (PEP) results, especially those who are transitioning to high school, to let the teachers in the high school know whether or not they need intervention, and the quantum of that intervention,” she said, noting that this will target students in early-childhood, primary and high schools.

Minister Williams also urged parents, teachers, and other stakeholders to assist in instilling discipline among students.

“This year, we want to focus on discipline in schools. We have increased the number of guidance counsellors… available in our schools. So, there are more available to our students if they are experiencing issues that they might not necessarily speak to the teachers about,” she said.

Improved Performances in Several CSEC and CAPE Subjects

Improvements have been made in several subject areas by students who sat this year’s secondary-school external examinations, according to the Ministry of Education and Youth.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, addressing a press conference today (September 7), pointed out that, “notwithstanding areas of challenges and concern, we also saw some improvements, and we will continue the efforts to ensure that our students are enabled to pursue their education and career goals”.

The Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) tests were administered through the Offices of the Overseas Examinations Commission, in June and July.

For CSEC, Jamaican students were registered to sit 34 exams and of that number, 12 subjects showed improved pass rates when compared to 2021. Most notable among them are passes in Additional Mathematics, which increased by 12.3 per cent; English B, which increased by 9.1 per cent; and Electronic Document Preparation and Management (EDPM), which increased by 7.3 per cent.

Nine CSEC subjects had an average pass rate of over 80 per cent. They are Agricultural Science – double award; Agricultural Science – single award; EDPM; Family and Resource Management; Food, Nutrition and Health; Industrial Technology; Office and Administration; Principles of Business; and Physical Education and Sport.

In CAPE, of the 35 subjects entered this year by all candidates in Jamaica, Unit 1 showed an average pass rate improvement in 15 subjects and unit 2 had improvements in 18 subjects. A pass in CAPE refers to the attainment of grades one to five.

On the other hand, students’ performance in CSEC Maths decreased by one per cent this year, when compared to the previous year, with a pass rate of 37.2 per cent. For English, a 69.9 per cent pass rate was attained, which is a 3.4 per cent decrease when compared to last year. CAPE Applied Maths also had a pass rate of just 56.2 per cent.

Overall, 30,331 public school students were registered for CSEC exams. 28,227 of these students, or 93.1 per cent, sat the exams and 83.5 per cent of them passed at least one subject with grades one, two or three. 1,155 entries were deferred.

In addition, 143 more students from public schools were registered for CSEC this year, in comparison to last year.

For CAPE, 11,649 candidates from public schools entered both Units 1 and 2. 183 entries were deferred for these exams.

Minister Williams commended students for the strides they have made in their education and for the perseverance to complete the external exams “under very trying and challenging circumstances”.

“I also want to encourage those who may not have done as well as they would have liked, to look for opportunities that will contribute to improved performance,” she urged.

The Minister also thanked teachers and parents for supporting the nation’s students in their academic pursuits.

Education Ministry to Spend $2 Billion on Textbooks

The Ministry of Education and Youth is to spend $2 billion on textbooks this academic year, of which $1 billion is for primary schools and $1 billion for high schools.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, made the disclosure during the sitting of the House of Representatives on September 6.

“I am particularly pleased of the greater investment in textbooks at the high-school level. Prior to this last year, we were only able to invest $200 million at the high-school level,” Mrs. Williams said.

Textbooks will be available in the usual hard copy and e-book format.

She informed that the Ministry has worked with the principals in the schools to determine the mix of text versus e-book format.

“Distributions have begun and will continue to the end of September. For the e-books, the student will only need to download the book once and will have it on their device for the entire year,” Mrs. Williams said.

Regarding dress and grooming, the Minister said an initial consultation session with principals has been held about the vexed issue of dress and grooming in schools.

“We implore our parents to ensure their children obey the school rules. If our parents desire a change in a school rule regarding dress and grooming, these changes are done by a standard process,” Mrs. Williams said.

“I would implore our parents to attend Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) [meetings] where you can put the particular issue you have with the school rules on the table. Rules and regulations are set by a standard process,” she added.

Mrs. Williams said a parent cannot just say, nothing is wrong with sending his or her child to school in tight pants, when the school rules specifically describe the pants that should be worn.

“School rules are about discipline in school. School rules are about preparation for living in the wider society in which we have to co-exist with each other. There are rules everywhere in society that all of us have to obey. We must teach our children in our schools to obey the school rules,” she emphasised.

“If you believe the school rule needs to be changed, engage the process. Do not lock the school gate, do not bad up the teacher or principal. Engage the process. If the school says no pink hair, do not send your child with pink hair. Obey the school rules,” the Minister urged.

Gov’t Focussed on Closing Gap in Education

The main goal of transforming Jamaica’s education system is to close the inequality gap in students’ learning experiences and outcomes, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, has said.

He noted that critical to accomplishing this objective is standardising resources and strengthening the accountability framework within the sector.

“The objective of the transformation is to keep the schools that are doing well, [doing] even better. But we have to focus on those sectors of the education system that are not doing well and lift up their standards, lift up their accountability and improve their output,” Mr. Holness said.

He was addressing the Office of the Prime Minister’s (OPM) Face-to-Face Townhall Meeting on Education, at Jamaica College in St. Andrew, on Friday (September 9).

Noting that the sector’s transformation is long overdue, Prime Minister Holness urged all stakeholders to support the process.

He said the Government will be emphasising accountability and efficiency in the delivery of education, to remove inequalities in the system and improve student performance across all institutions.

“That is what the objective is, because we’ve got to remove the inequality and inequities of the Jamaican society and start with equalising educational [outputs], not by tearing down those who are doing well, but by pulling [them] up,” he said.

‘The Reform of Education in Jamaica 2021 Report’ was launched in January 2022, with the Ministry of Education and Youth tasked to implement the recommendations.

Prior to this Report, there have been several others. They include the 2004 Taskforce on Educational Reform, the Education System Transformation Programme, which was started in 2010, and the 2012 National Education Strategic Plan.

Over 25,000 Classroom Spaces Available Under the Sixth form Pathway Programme

Over 25,000 classroom spaces are now available for secondary students under the Ministry of Education and Youth’s Sixth Form Pathway Programme.

These have been provided at tertiary institutions mapped to high schools under the Programme, which caters for students attaining less than four Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects.

Acting Chief Education Officer in the Ministry, Dr. Kasan Troupe, made the announcement during the Office of the Prime Minister’s (OPM) Face-to-Face Education Townhall Meeting at Jamaica College in St. Andrew, on Friday (September 9).

Responding to questions from parents attending the forum, Dr. Troupe advised that “not all our high schools will be able to retain all students; [which] is why we partnered with the tertiary sector.”

“So, if you are not able to retain a place in your high school, we still have a place for you. We have even said that if those institutions don’t offer what you want, we would put you onto [an] institution [that does] because we still would want to respond to your interest and not just a programme of study,” she further stated.

Dr. Troupe said parents and caregivers should visit their children’s schools and speak with the Sixth Form Coordinator to assist with this process.

“If you are not getting through [then] visit your Regional Office… our officers are willing to help you. Your child has a space in this country, at this time, to continue his or her education” she added.

The Programme includes three pathways for secondary students. Those with five or more subjects qualify for Pathway One, which allows them to matriculate into the traditional Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) programme.

Pathway Two is for students with four or less CSEC subjects, while Pathway Three targets youngsters who obtained no subjects.

Coupled with the Pathway options are opportunities for students to obtain a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ-J) Level Two or Three certificate, as well as dual certification in CAPE Associate Degrees in Industrial Technology and City and Guilds Engineering Level 3.

Work to Implement Recommendations in Reform of Education Report Underway

The Ministry of Education and Youth is in the process of establishing the requisite internal units to execute recommendations outlined in the ‘Reform of Education in Jamaica 2021 Report’.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon Andrew Holness, made the announcement during a face-to-face townhall meeting at Jamaica College in St. Andrew, on Friday (September 9).

He also advised that the process of recruiting a Chief Transformation Officer has commenced.

The Prime Minister noted that this “will be a significant milestone in the journey of transformation.”

The Education Transformation Oversight Committee, being led by Dr. Adrian Stokes, has already been established.

Mr. Holness, who underscored the importance of implementing the recommendations, said the Government remains resolute in its mission of transforming education in Jamaica.

He maintained that this undertaking will revolutionise the sector and encouraged the Ministry’s stakeholders to “embrace the transformation process”.

The Prime Minister indicated that the Ministry’s existing framework must be altered to effectively facilitate the reformation process.

“The transformation must be internal. The Ministry itself must embrace the transformation. The Ministry itself must see the benefit of the transformation… and the people in the Ministry must lead the transformation,” he emphasised.

Mr. Holness, who declared that “we are on our way with the new transformation report”, urged the nation “to understand that the Government is serious about it, and we are going to move with great instrumentality to have our education system transformed.”

Developed by the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission (JETC), the Report is a blueprint for establishing a comprehensive strategy to improve student performance and educational productivity across the sector.

The 342-page document has 54 prioritised recommendations. These relate to governance and accountability; early-childhood education; teaching curriculum and teacher training; tertiary education; technical and vocational education and training (TVET); infrastructure and technology; and finance, among other areas.

The townhall meeting was organised by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

Outstanding Educators Receive PM’s Medal of Appreciation

The Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Service to Education was presented to 80 educators on Thursday (September 8), for their outstanding contributions to the sector.

The presentation ceremony, which was held at Jamaica House, saw educators from the 2021 and 2022 cohorts receiving medals.

The number of awards presented this year was doubled due to the postponement of the 2021 ceremony, in compliance with COVID-19 public health protocols.

In his address, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, commended the honorees for their service, noting that its value to national development is inestimable.

“Jamaica cannot honour you enough; but please know we are grateful. Through this special ceremony tonight, we are recognising your dedication and service above self. The award you receive this evening is not only to recognise your achievements, it is also a symbol of appreciation of your mission of molding the most important asset of our island nation – our youth,” he said.

Mr. Holness added that while the event is a recognition of long, sterling service of exceptional educators, it also seeks to reignite the principles of excellence in the teaching corps.

Addressing the issue of teacher migration, the Prime Minister thanked those who have chosen to remain in the profession to give their talents to the continued development of the nation’s education sector.

“I must thank those who have opted to stay in the profession here in Jamaica to enable children to benefit from their experience and expertise. As Prime Minister, let me assure you that I am fully aware of the level of sacrifice, commitment, and great sense of responsibility you bring to bear to your duties on a daily basis. I therefore take this opportunity to salute all our teachers for giving of your best as classroom teachers, administrators, counsellors, and trainers,” he said.

For her part, Education and Youth Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, also extended congratulations to the awardees and lauded them on their significant contributions to Jamaica’s social and economic advancement.

“The 80 persons awarded… have demonstrated over many years that teaching is a calling and that, by your example and commitment, educators in the classroom and in administration can have a huge, positive impact on the lives of your students,” she said.

Awardees were selected by a committee comprising officials from across the sector. Points were awarded to nominees based on pre-determined criteria. The persons receiving the highest number of points were selected for the prestigious award.

The medal gives recognition to the significant contribution made by persons to Jamaica’s development in the field of education.

The medal may be awarded annually to any citizen of Jamaica or, in exceptional circumstances, to a person who is not a citizen, where that individual has been a teacher with a minimum of 15 years of service locally.

It recognises the outstanding service of persons who have shown evidence of community involvement, innovation, and creativity in the service.

Community involvement encompasses participation in civic activities, clubs and societies, uniformed groups, and other programmes and activities fostering community development and enhancing the person’s role as an educator giving outstanding service.

The number of medals awarded in any year shall not exceed 40.

The Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Service to Education was instituted by Proclamation Number One, issued by the Governor-General on June 20, 2005.

Education Minister Commends Male Students Performing Well in CSEC and CAPE

Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, has commended male students on their performance in this year’s secondary-level external examinations.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday (September 7), Mrs. Williams noted that male students outperformed their female counterparts in several Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects.

The Minister indicated that the males did well in eight CAPE subjects, notably Art and Design, Spanish, and French, where all the candidates received passes, as against the 97.4 per cent, 96.2 per cent and 95 per cent of females, respectively.

For Biology, 94.4 per cent of males received passes versus 92.6 per cent of females; in Green Engineering, 70 per cent of males passed the exam, versus 50 per cent of females; and in History, 95.1 per cent of males received passes while 92.8 per cent of females passed.

For Logistics and Supply Chain Operations, 57.4 per cent of males passed, against 40 per cent of females; while, for Tourism, 98.3 per cent of males received passes as opposed to 97.4 per cent of females.

Jamaica’s overall average pass rate for CAPE, for which students obtained grades one to five, was 88.5 per cent.

For CSEC, a total of 46,727 candidates were registered for this year’s examinations, of which 28,658 were females and 18,069 were males.

Approximately 91 per cent, or 42,488 candidates, sat the exams, of which 76.7 per cent passed at least one subject, with grades one, two or three.

Minister Williams pointed out that in four CSEC subjects, more males achieved passes than females.

These are Additional Maths, where 65.6 per cent of males passed versus 64.8 per cent of females; Music (83.1 per cent of males passed as against 75.9 per cent of females); Principles of Business (82.7 per cent of males passed versus 82.4 per cent of females passed); and Theatre Arts (78.8 per cent of males received passes and 77.9 per cent of females passed).

“Those are good percentages for our males, and we want to encourage them along in these various subject areas,” Mrs. Williams stated.

She also thanked parents and teachers for supporting the education of all the students.

The annual external examinations were administered through the Overseas Examinations Commission.

Youth Encouraged to Join CPFSA’s Children’s Advisory Panel

The Children’s Advisory Panel (CAP) of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) is accepting new members this year, and interested youth are being encouraged to apply.

The body, which comprises members aged 13 to 17, is refreshed every two years to allow older members to make way for new persons.

“Right now, so many of our members have passed the age limit and the CAP is going to shrink significantly. We’re going to need people to fill the gaps,” outgoing Chair, Jessica Russell, told JIS News.

The CAP has a core function of providing feedback to the CPFSA and ensuring that children have an input in matters that will affect them.

“If there are any new laws that need to be instated or if there are any events that are going to have children, they (CPFSA) will ask us for our opinion,” Ms. Russell informed.

The panel’s other activities include, from time to time, the formation of its own projects and plans.

It was formed 10 years ago and mostly represents wards of the State, especially since the CPFSA monitors and supports these children.

“We have the Students’ Council in place for the education sector and they cover a lot of students; so, we decided to pay special attention to those in State care,” Ms. Russell pointed out.

A major event of the CAP is the biennial National Children’s Summit, which is intended to give the wards a platform to express themselves.

This was last held on August 18 at the National Indoors Sports Centre in Kingston, under the theme: ‘Beat the Odds, Chart Your Destiny’, with hundreds of wards attending.

Persons interested in joining the CAP can visit the CPFSA’s website for the relevant contact information. A parent’s permission is required, and an interview process is involved for all potential members.

Youth in State care are especially encouraged to apply and are asked to speak to the Director at their residential care facility.

“Any child who’s willing to step up to a leadership position is welcome to join, because CAP is a chance for you to grow as a person,” Ms. Russell said.

“For me, I was shy before and then I grew into the position. It’s such a rich opportunity. I’ve gotten the chance to meet so many different people and it’s also great because it shows that you’re involved in your community,” she added.

SRC Revives Summer Attachment Programme for Teachers

Educators across the island are being invited to participate in the Scientific Research Council’s (SRC’s) summer attachment programme next week.

The free five-day professional development initiative aims to advance the knowledge of teachers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Activities get under way on Monday (August 8) with a virtual workshop, which will be held over three days.

A two-day tour of the SRC, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and other entities within the Hope Gardens Complex will close off the programme.

Interested teachers are required to complete a registration form, which can be found on the SRC’s website and submit their résumé for consideration.

Coordinator for the Science and Technology Education Unit at the SRC, Kavelle Hylton, told JIS News that through the initiative, the entity is targeting improvement in students’ performance in the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC).

She noted that while it is tailored for primary and secondary-level educators, early-childhood teachers are welcome to join to advance their knowledge in STEM.

Ms. Hylton noted that the professional development programme, which was on a break for seven years, has been given “a fresh look”.

“Most of our programmes target students but we understand that in order to make a greater impact, we definitely need to empower our teachers,” Ms. Hylton said.

She noted that the workshop component “is very important because it includes looking at integrating STEM into the curriculum for these teachers. It also looks at the industry and STEM careers”.

The session will include presentations by industry experts on topics such as tissue culture, food chemistry, and microbiology.

Ms. Hylton said that at the end of the workshop the educators will be able to create meaningful and engaging classroom experiences for their students.

“By learning the different techniques… teachers can implement them in the classroom to make [learning] more fun and bring science alive to create an interest in students to pursue a career in STEM,” she said.

In addition to knowledge building, the initiative aims to enhance the educators’ STEM-focused investigation skills.

“This is a very worthwhile programme for teachers, and I’m definitely imploring teachers to take this opportunity,” Ms. Hylton said.

She told JIS News that the organisation is looking to partner with teachers’ colleges and training institutions going forward and to have the workshop in-person next year.