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Education Achievements in 2015


Statement by
Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites
Minister of Education

Press Conference, January 15, 2016

Last year the education enterprise made some outstanding gains.
•    We surpassed the literacy target of 85 per cent mastery at grade four
•    The numeracy rate moved from 49 per cent in 2011 to 67 per cent in 2015
•    The largest number of students recorded perfect scores in GSAT
•    CSEC math passes increased significantly three years in a row
•    30 primary and high schools received additional classrooms totaling more than 200 since 2012
•    More than 20 schools were removed from the shift system totaling 50 since 2012

The Ministry’s focus this year is to ensure that the gains from last year are exceeded and that the momentum is accelerated.

We start by appealing to parents and school administrators to ensure that children are registered to sit the relevant examinations.

GSAT: Schools are asked to ensure that all candidates eligible to sit the GSAT are duly registered. Those requesting Special Accommodations should submit psycho educational assessment to the Student Assessment Unit by Monday January 17, 2016.
The syllabus for GSAT remains the same as last year. There are no adjustments.

The Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy Test will be held on June 28 & 29, 2016 in all primary level institutions. Private candidates are to be registered at the nearest regional offices
Grade eleven exit exams: Although the deadline closed yesterday to register for the National Vocational Qualification Jamaica (NVQJ), Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) and City & Guilds examinations, the Ministry is willing to assist anyone who was unable to do so because of unaffordability.

If the positive trend in mathematics outcomes is to be maintained and the decline in CSEC examination passes in the sciences is to be arrested, then the Ministry has to move with alacrity to address the chronic shortage of these subject teachers.

The situation has been aggravated by the loss of close to 500 teachers of Math and Science at the secondary level to local/overseas employers between the 2014 and 2015 academic years.

To address this urgent situation the Ministry of Education has developed some proposals. They are as follows:
    Revision and reactivation of protocol for regulating the recruitment of Jamaican teachers by foreign entities.

    Develop programmes for the delivery of the specialised subjects through media and ICTs, with support from recruiting countries where possible.

    The Jamaica Teaching Council, with support from other relevant entities, is to undertake a 5-year forecasting of teachers needed in the system.

    Provide scholarships for the specific subjects, that are tenable at the universities or teacher training institutions
    Increase teachers’ colleges intake and enter into a payment arrangement with these students such as providing  bursaries and/or scholarships
 Discussions have started with The Mico University College, Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College and the University of Technology to train 600 teachers in mathematics, science and emerging TVET areas, starting September 2016. Fifty two scholarships and bursaries have been awarded already. VTDI will also be involved in this arrangement.

    Institute bonding arrangements commensurate with the support received from the Government

The Ministry has shared these proposals with  the leadership of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association who have agreed to serve on a joint working committee to refine them for Cabinet approval and implementation.

This year the Ministry will roll out on a phased basis the new National Standards Curriculum for grades one to nine starting in September. For 2016/2017 the implementation will be in grades 1, 3,5,7,9 and in grades 2,4,6,8 at the beginning of the 2017/2018 academic year.

The goal of the National Standard Curriculum is to improve the general academic performance, attitude and behaviours of students which will redound to the positive shaping of the national social and economic fabric.
The National Standard Curriculum has several features including:
1. Standard-based: Standards are now provided for students to develop competencies (thinking and personal skills, and understanding/appreciation of Jamaica’s rich heritage)

2. New teaching and learning approaches including
    Increased emphasis on project-based and problem-solving learning with STEM/STEAM integrated at all levels. These approaches will allow the learner to have hands-on experiences that are similar to real-world situations. Thus, the learning experience will be less abstract and more concrete.
    Greater emphasis on deep/high order thinking (depth of knowledge)
    Allowing students to utilize their own talents and experiences in the teaching learning process.
    Increased use of ICT as a tool for teaching and learning, but not to the detriment of the student using real objects and exploring inside and outside the classroom setting.
3. Changes to Subjects
    Civics will return to be a discrete discipline
    TVET and Spanish will be formally introduced at the primary level
    Geography and History have been separated from Social Studies and will be offered separately starting at Grade 7.
    Chemistry, Biology and Physics have been separated from Integrated Science and will be offered separately starting at Grade 9. These changes aim to ensure that the requisite foundation for the CSEC level in these disciplines is laid during the lower secondary years.

4. Assessments and Examinations
    An Age-four assessment will be done at the Early Childhood level
    The Grade 1 evaluation for readiness -GOILP – will be revised
    The Grade 3 diagnostic test will be shifted to Grade 2
    The Grade 4 Literacy and Numeracy tests remain but will be modified as one examination
    At Grade 6, the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) will replace the GSAT. The PEP will comprise three components. PEP will be introduced in 2018, so the public will be provided with more information in due course
    At Grade 9 there will be a diagnostic assessment. The current external exit examinations at Grade 11 will remain. Additionally, there will be a National School Leaving Certificate.

One of the outcomes of the problem-based instruction under the new curriculum is that it acquaints students with work ethics and employability skills that will be advantageous to them when they enter the world of work.

Preparing students for industry is also a focus of the education enterprise for this year. The HEART Trust/NTA is the agency under the Ministry of Education charged with the mandate to link people with   employment.

Commendations are due to the Board and Management of the agency for their efforts in this regard last year and for their willingness to increase the momentum going forward.

Announcement of MSME Support Programme
I wish to announce that the HEART Trust/NTA will be launching an initiative to assist Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in keeping with its mandate to create employment opportunities for its trainees while also providing financing for employment programmes.

The MSME Support Programme will have three distinct components which will provide assistance for Trainee Starts-ups, Export-Based Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and General MSMEs.

Eligible entrepreneurs can access a grant of up to $3 million depending on the support category. SMEs will receive up to $3 million to boost exports through the Export Max initiative being spearheaded by Jamaica Promotions (JAMPRO).

Other selected MSMEs will receive a grant of up to $3 million and participate in a business development programme. Additionally, a select group of HEART Trainee Start-ups will receive a grant of up to $100, 000 to purchase tools and equipment. They will also receive business development training for 18 months.

Other initiatives to support entrepreneurs include Specific Industry Intervention, the HEART SmartTraq Training Programme, Entrepreneurship Clubs and Customized Training.

Expansion of Training for Tourism and Hospitality
In response to the recent announcements of significant local and foreign direct investments in the tourism and hospitality industry, the HEART Trust will expand the College of Hospitality Services  to significantly increase its capacity.  The Trust will also increase emphasis on higher level training programmes, equipping candidates to become supervisors, managers and entrepreneurs. 

At its current capacity the HEART Trust/NTA is able to certify approximately 5,732 hospitality and tourism workers annually.  This will be increased over the next 5 years.  Since 2011, the Agency has trained 28,659 hospitality and tourism professionals.

Developments in Business Process Outsourcing
Collaborative effort was initiated between the Agency and the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ) to ensure Jamaica is able to robustly respond to the growing demand in the sector. The HEART Trust/NTA now trains BPO professional in 13 institutions eleven of which are located in the North Western region of the island, where most Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firms are located.  Since April 2015, 774 participants have been enrolled for training.

HEART Trust/NTA is involved in other activities such as Career Development and Labour Market survey which I will ask Dr Wesley to comment on later.

Occupational Supervisory Certification
An Occupational Supervisory Certification programme is being developed by the Joint Council of Tertiary Education (JCTE), through the chairman Dr Cecil Cornwall, to provide a certification pathway for skilled professionals in industry.
We will say more about this in due course

The re-engineering of the Ministry of Education gained significant momentum in 2015. The creation of the Department of School Services (DSS) will allow the Ministry to separate its policy functions from its operational mandate, thereby facilitating greater levels of efficiency and emphasis on school improvement.

The re-engineering of the Ministry’s structure is in keeping with the on-going Public Sector Modernisation Programme, which in the case of the Education Ministry will result in the creation of a Central Policy Ministry and the DSS. Already, the head of the DSS along with three other officers have been named, following a mapping exercise focusing on personnel in the MoE. That exercise continues and should be well advanced by the time the DSS is launched in the first quarter of 2016.

Counselling of LGBTQ students
Deployment of Guidance Counsellors: 806 counsellors are deployed to approximately 564 primary and secondary schools. The majority of all counsellors are located in secondary level schools where counselling was first introduced. With few exceptions, secondary schools have been allocated two counselling posts. Not all primary schools have counsellors on staff.  However, the Regional Guidance Officer’s remit is to serve all schools within a region

Ethics and Standards: Guidance Counsellors in Jamaica are expected to adhere to international ethics and standards in field which include
a)    Ethics and principles involved in the one-to-one counselling relationship, including client confidentiality and the importance of obtaining informed consent for any intervention.
b)    Respect for the rights and dignity of the client, including freedom from discrimination and the right to privacy and respect for self-determination.
c)    The responsibility of Guidance Counsellors to act in a responsible and reputable manner, and to avoid any harm to clients. This is linked to the acceptance of a special duty of care towards children, and the importance of always acting in the best interests of the child.
d)    Integrity, honesty and fairness in the practice of Guidance and Counselling. This includes avoiding conflicts of interest and client exploitation.

Corporal Punishment
The Ministry continues to discourage the use of corporal punishment in schools. A team led by the Chief Education Officer is reviewing all matters relating to corporal punishment alongside the suite of behaviour management programmes, various legislations and conventions and will in short order give directions to boards and administrators.

The Ministry has been implementing a series of behaviour management programmes across selected schools that provide students and staff with the knowledge and skills to promote positive behaviour and change.

Last year the Ministry’s Safety and Security Unit conducted rigorous professional development sessions for all Deans of Disciplines as well as introduce new and revised safety guidelines. We appeal to schools to use the resources and tools they have been given to maintain a peaceful and harmonious environment in schools.

Thank You.