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Education Ministry to Intensify Outreach for ‘Zero-To-Three’ Initiative


JIS: The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information will be intensifying its outreach for the ‘Zero-to-Three’ initiative, at an Early Grade Reading Conference to be held in the first month of the next academic year.


The launch of the conference, which is to be held on Thursday, September 27, took place at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew on Tuesday (May 22).


Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, said the conference will assist the Government to strengthen the ‘Zero-to-Three’ initiative and expose early-childhood educators to expert reading practices, which they will, in return, expose to the infants.


He cited a recent World Bank study which says that during the first few years of a child’s life, approximately 700 neural connections are formed every second.


“These connections are dictated by the interplay of a baby’s genetics, environment and experiences, especially the child’s interactions with adults. These are the connections that build brain architecture, the foundation upon which all later learning and behaviour depend,” the study said.


The Minister also noted that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that the first 1,000 days of life, the time spanning roughly between conception and one’s second birthday, is a unique period of opportunity when the foundations of optimum health, growth and neurodevelopment across the lifespan are established.


“Thus, this time period harbours the greatest opportunity to provide optimal nutrition to ensure normal development and also the time of greatest brain vulnerability to any nutrient deficit,” Mr. Reid said.


“If we do not catch our children during these first 1,000 days, many of them will fail,” he added.


Acting Mission Director, United States Aency for International Development (USAID) Jamaica, Mr. Andrew Colburn, said his organisation is pleased to be partnering with Jamaica to host this conference in September and to be present at its launch.


“USAID Jamaica is pleased to share in this exciting event to build the awareness with stakeholders…  .The launch of this Reading Conference is an opportunity to ground the endorsement of the stakeholders, and also to create more enthusiasm in the wider public domain for reading,” Mr. Colburn said.


He added that the USAID is pleased to be one of the foremost international development partners to have assisted the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to improve early-grade reading in most of the primary schools across the island.


His organisation will continue to assist through the USAID/Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Reads Capacity Programme, which seeks to increase the impact, scale and sustainability of early-grade-reading interventions in the Latin American and the Caribbean region.


The USAID/LAC Reads Capacity Programme is coordinated by the American Institute for Research, in association with Juárez and Associates and has been implemented in Jamaica by EduConnect Jamaica Limited (EduConnectJA).


To sustain effective early-grade literacy (EGL) initiatives, USAID/LAC Reads Capacity Programme and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information will also collaborate with other stakeholders in the early childhood sector to get buy-in and establish an EGL Community of Practice in order to create a ‘think tank’, share business success and evidence based research, and develop innovative materials.


The Conference will be hosted by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, the USAID, EduConnectJA and the LAC Reads Capacity Programme, at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston under the theme ‘Get reading, right from the start’.


CAPTION: Early Grade Reading Conference 1: Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, addresses the launch of the Early Grade Reading Conference at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew on Tuesday (May 22).