Microscience training gets a boost
Since 2018, the Government of Jamaica, through the National Science Programme, has implemented a microscience pilot programme in primary and secondary schools to improve student performance in the sciences. This pilot is aimed at exposing current teachers to the microscience techniques for teaching science. ‘
As part of the training programme, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information recently conducted a Professional Development Microscience Programme for Science Teacher Educators, with the aid of the Japan-funded IDB Technical Cooperation, at the Melia Braco Village resort in Rio Bueno, Trelawny.
The three-day (September 18-20) workshop was attended by 50 teacher educators from seven Teachers’ Colleges: St Joseph’s Teachers’ College, Moneague College, Shortwood Teachers’ the College, Bethlehem Teachers’ College, College of Agricultural Science and Education, Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College and the Mico University College. The aim was to introduce microscience teaching and explore opportunities for the integration of its approaches in the delivery of lessons at the college level.
The Global Microscience approach to the delivery of science (made popular by UNESCO) is a practical approach to science teaching at the primary and secondary levels. It uses inexpensive microscience kits along with supporting student and teacher manuals that allow teachers to teach science content from any national curriculum at a lower cost and with greater safety than traditional laboratory-centred approaches. Microscience kits have been used for over 30 years in other jurisdictions and have been researched and validated as an effective tool that motivates students and increases participation in science.
Speaking at the workshop, Desmond Campbell, principal lecturer and head of the Department of Natural and Applied Science at the Moneague College, noted that space constraints was one of the most profound issues facing colleges for Primary Science 1, 2, and 3, CAPE Sciences, and CSEC sciences, among other subject areas. “Ordering materials and apparatus can be very expensive and time consuming The use of microscience kits is an excellent addition to the teaching experience, where they can be taken to classrooms and outdoors for experiments,” he explained.
Petal Punllal Jetoo, an independent consultant and the facilitator of the three-day introductory workshop, shared similar sentiments, emphasising that in her native Guyana, many of the sophisticated laboratory equipment needed to run efficient labs are just not available, especially in the Teachers’ Colleges. “Microscience makes exploring science content possible with simple unsophisticated apparatus, which makes it ideal in a setting where resources are limited,” she added.
Daynea Facey, programme manager for the Education System Transformation Programme and one of the conceptualisers of the Microscience Professional Development Programme for Teacher Educators, pointed to the importance of providing training for college lecturers in order to successfully ‘stem the tide’ of underachievement in science.
“This programme exists because the Ministry recognises that quality teacher preparation is a key input for improved teacher delivery. If we can get teachers in training to be competent in strategies that work before leaving college, we can spend less money on ‘remediation’ when they graduate,” she said.
This thinking has led the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to focus on building the capacity in teacher educators offering a six-month Professional Development Programme in Microscience. This programme consists of an introductory workshop followed by small-group professional coaching sessions between October 2019 and January 2020. During coaching sessions, teacher educators will conduct peer observations as well as receive small-group coaching sessions from Miss Jetoo, who is also a UNESCO Microscience master trainer, to boost college lecturers’ capacity to implement microscience during classes.
National Science Coordinator Sadpha Bennett affirms the benefits of the programme for colleges by pointing to the impact currently seen in the current pilot. “The achievements with engaging teacher training institutions in microscience and in the implementation of the pilot projects in 14 secondary schools has created the basis for exponential positive impact on the teaching and learning of science on a scale to include meaningful science education experience for students in all schools in Jamaica.”
Jetoo further expounded on the long-term benefits for Jamaica, citing Guyana’s experience gained from the consistent, unwavering support at the policy level for the implementation of microscience.
“This is a great opportunity for Jamaica to improve passes in the science CSEC examinations as I have witnessed during my tenure as national science coordinator in Guyana. We would have seen increased CSEC science entries and passes following the implementation of the Microscience Experiments Project in 2011 within the Ministry of Education,” she said.
Through this initiative, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information is also celebrating with UNESCO the observation of 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table and remains committed to improving CSEC passes in all science subjects through the provision of working facilities, equipment and professional development of our Teacher Training Institutions in microscience techniques.
The programme, which is sponsored through grant funding amounting to US$260,000., also provides well-needed, sophisticated laboratory equipment, for the colleges as well as support in improving the Quality Assurance mechanisms that guide the service delivery in teachers’ colleges. A similar professional development programme was offered to mathematics college lecturers over 10 months between August 2018 and June 2019.
Article submitted by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.