Specialist coaches for math revolution
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Starting today, the education ministry will be sending out 80 mathematics coaches and specialists to 150 primary and secondary schools to coincide with the onset of the new academic year.
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, in a nationwide broadcast last night, said this is intended to improve teaching skills of mathematics teachers.
"We know we can rely on teachers to support this effort to raise student performance in this crucial subject," said Thwaites.
Candidates who sat this year's CSEC examinations recorded an improvement in 14 of the 35 subject areas, with mathematics recording the highest jump - a 13 percentage-point increase in passes - moving from 42 per cent last year to 56 per cent. A total of 23,351 students sat mathematics, an increase of 481 from last year; however, it was only 56 per cent of the full cohort.
He said improved results in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) in English language and mathematics demonstrate that the education system has begun to respond positively to efforts to raise the quality of outcomes.
Thwaites said the focus of the ministry is to implement policies and programmes to sustain these early gains in students' achievement in the CSEC and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations.
"Nothing else matters as much," he said.
Principals already trained
Thwaites said principals and department heads have already been trained to lead the mathematics revolution in Jamaica. He stressed that the ministry is depending on them to ensure the successful implementation of this initiative in accordance with the National Mathematics Policy.
"We have to count on maths for our economic success, as mastery of the subject is a predictor of a country's ability to take advantage of economic opportunities in the 21st century," said Thwaites
Meanwhile, Thwaites said more than 600,000 students at all levels are expected in school this year.
"There is adequate space to accommodate all the students who will enter schools at the early childhood, primary and secondary levels," he said.
He disclosed that the Mount St Joseph Catholic High School in Mandeville will open its doors as a grant-aided institution with approximately 180 grade seven students and a smaller number of sixth-formers.
In addition, he said 16 schools - three high and 13 primary and junior high - will be taken off the shift system to allow for a more effective delivery of the curriculum and efficient administration.
Meanwhile, with research pointing to a significant portion of the nation's children arriving at school hungry, Thwaites said the Government will be providing breakfast and lunch free or at little cost to about 200,000 students in the early childhood cohort.
He said some schools will serve prepackaged meals prepared by Nutrition Products Limited, while others will prepare meals locally in accordance with the ministry's nutritional guidelines.
Provide drinking water
Regarding the impact of the drought on schools, Thwaites said the ministry has collaborated with the ministries of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, as well as Local Government, to make sure that at least some water is available to every school.
However, he said that parents should try to provide drinking water and communities must not use school water, but, instead, help to supply schools, where necessary.
Thwaites also stressed that the health ministry has provided education officials and school personnel with precautionary information about chikungunya and other public-health risks.
As of Saturday, the Ministry of Health had confirmed 21 cases of chikungunya on the island, with St Thomas, St Catherine, St Ann and Kingston and St Andrew being the affected parishes.
Chikungunya is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is generally found in and around places where people inhabit. Persons are urged to search for and destroy mosquito-breeding sites by getting rid of old tyres and containers in which water can settle, punching holes in tins before disposing, and covering large drums, barrels and tanks holding water.