Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Changes coming for National Mathematics Programme

Published:Wednesday | September 14, 2016 | 9:00 AMAndre Poyser

With mixed results being produced by the National Mathematics Programme (NMP), Minister of Education Ruel Reid has signalled that changes are to be made to how the programme currently operates.

The NMP was introduced under former Education Minister Ronald Thwaites and was based on a strategy to build teacher capacity through the deployment of coaches to schools with the greatest need across the island.

But arguing that a teacher was not necessarily as good as a coach, Reid painted the scenario of coaches bypassing teachers and working directly with students. "... What about you, the coach, coaching the student directly?" he asked and added, "... We are working on that initiative and change." Reid was speaking at a briefing for the Caribbean Centre of Excellence in Mathematics Teaching Pilot Project at the Mico University College yesterday.

The NMP, headed by National Mathematics Coordinator Dr Tamika Benjamin, has seen more than 45 mathematics coaches and 33 mathematics resource teachers dispatched to schools and tasked with strengthening teacher competence. Coaches support teachers in lesson planning, observe lessons, and provide direct feedback, conduct demonstration lessons, and facilitate professional development sessions for teachers.

With the 14 per cent decline in mathematics performance in this year's Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate, Reid is not convinced that the modus operandi of the NMP has been effective in arresting the decline in mathematics performance.

FOCUS ON STUDENTS, NOT TEACHERS

It is for this reason that he wants the specialist coaches, employed under the NMP to target the students rather than the teachers. Such a change would, however, contradict the guiding philosophy of the programme, which identified the weak competence of teachers in the area of mathematics as the root cause of student's poor performance in the subject.

Reid is of the view that the focus of interventions in mathematics should be on students rather than teachers.

"Wherever the resources are ... whether it's by redirecting the coaches back to service the students, because the students are our primary consideration ... . It could involve the community colleges and universities. The best mathematics teachers that we have available will be pulled out and they will have to spend time with every single student in Jamaica who is going to be registered to sit mathematics this year because we cannot just be at a college or university and not impacting students directly," he said.

He pointed out that the recently announced Mathematics Consortium, which is to be headed by Mico University College President Dr Ashburn Pinnock, will serve to supplement the NMP.

Reid also noted that a policy which stipulates that all mathematics teachers entering the profession should have at least a first degree in the subject area being considered. Such a policy was, however, introduced for all subject areas while Ronald Thwaites had command of the education ministry.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com