JIS: Several teachers and education officials are lauding the Education Partnership for Improved Reading Outcomes, for equipping the education system with the tools for steady progress in literacy.
Under the three-year project, which ended in March, the Education Ministry, in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), provided capacity building and technical assistance to the National Literacy Programme, implemented in 2010, through a comprehensive reading programme in 450 schools.
It provided ninety Reading Coaches in all 450 schools in the first year; and provided support in literacy strategies to teachers at Grades 1-3, enabling them to more effectively support the students in the system, reaching over 100,000 students.
“It is an awesome programme. Not only did Grades 1-3 benefit, but also Grade 4,” says Principal of the St. Andrew based Cockburn Gardens Primary and Junior High School, Patricia Findlay, in an interview with JIS News.
She adds that her school was able to employ a Reading Coach who received a top award for outstanding work on the project, while another teacher at the institution was able to get valuable experience from it. “I expect our grades to go up, and we will do better in the future,” she says.
Teacher at Port Henderson Primary School, in St. Catherine, Andréa Bryan, says the experience was insightful. “I learnt many strategies to help our children, and also to work with other teachers,” she tells JIS News.
For Kimberly McKenzie Morris, who worked as a Reading Coach on the project, it was fulfilling. “Teachers gained a lot from the experience. The techniques that we have shared are still being maintained, and that is very rewarding,” she says.
Reading Advisor on the project, Dr. Maureen Byfield, who represented Project Director, Claudette Carter, at the recent closing out ceremony for the project, says “special attention” was given to gender sensitive instructions, “as it is important to understand issues related to instruction for boys and girls.”
“To this end, a Gender Specialist developed a gender manual, which is of tremendous value to the system,” she adds.
Dr. Byfield notes that Grade 3 children who benefited from the various interventions were among those who “surpassed expectations in the recent Grade 4 Literacy Test.”
“We look forward to teachers and principals continuing to use the various strategies to which they have been introduced, so that the benefits will be sustained,” she tells JIS News.
A Parenting Specialist was engaged to spearhead the establishment of Parents’ Places in several schools across the island.
“The Specialist worked with the team to promote good parenting strategies; to educate parents in ways to support their children’s literacy development; and also imparted ways to support the schools where their children attend,” Dr. Byfield notes.
Principal of the Schoolfield Primary School, in St. Elizabeth, Prim Lewis, says it was a successful venture.
“I was a beneficiary of the project, and the Jamaican students are the winners. We promise to use the materials effectively to sustain the programme,” she tells JIS News.
To complete the printing of Literacy 123 material for Grade 3, conduct final audit assessment, compensate employees, and pay for goods and services under the project, the Government has set aside more than $53 million in the 2016/2017 Estimates of Expenditure, now before the House of Representatives.
For his part, Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, says he is delighted that the partnership had included “very critical components,” including the establishment of parents’ places, and the development of special manuals relating to gender, parenting and lesson planning.
“Studies have shown that where parents have access to the school compound and are integrally involved in the education and development of their children, the learning process is enhanced,” the Minister says.
Mr. Reid says he is pleased that a great deal of time and resources were spent in the hosting of workshops, to develop the gender manual to guide stakeholders.
“The student-parent-school bond is one which works and the positive results are there to show it,” he notes, adding that teachers, coaches and principals who worked and embraced the project must be commended.
“This is an initiative which we must continue, and find ways to make our system more conducive to learning and development. I urge the school leaders and teachers to ensure that these gender manuals are utilised to their fullest effect. This hard work by the project team must not be in vain,” the Minister emphasises.
“Our children deserve only the best and everything must be done to cater for the efficient instruction of our boys and girls at the early grade level of the system,” he adds.
Mission Director with USAID, Denise Herbol, highlights that the Parents’ Places which offer avenues at the educational institutions for educators and parents to engage in promoting reading for children, are part of the most critical components of the project.
Deputy Chief Education Officer, Dorset Campbell, says the project provided rich resources in learning materials for the students.
“The coaching support was excellent, and some elements of the programme have been incorporated into the new curriculum,” she informs.