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”.