Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Ministry expands opportunities for personal advancement

Published:Sunday | January 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Ronald Thwaites (right), minister of education, greets students at the Dunrobin Primary School.-Ian Allen/Photographer
Principals participating in a British Council-hosted consultation on developing a framework for the introduction of a coaching/mentoring programme for Jamaican school and education system leaders in March 2014. Nicholas Garrick (fourth left), executive coach, and Dr Maurice Smith (second right), principal director at the National College for Educational Leadership, conducted the focus group discussions.-Contributed
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Byron Buckley, Contributor

THIS BRIEF review of the achievements of the Ministry of Education during 2014 will focus on three areas among a multiplicity of programmes that provide people with the opportunities for personal advancement. The areas of focus include the training of school leaders, expansion of opportunities for technical vocational education and training (TVET), and improvement to the early-childhood education sector.

The upgrading of principals to become effective instructional leaders assumed added importance during the past year against the background of survey findings that indicate a significant deficit in the quality of leadership at the school level. The Ministry of Education, through the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL), conducted training for 1,270 participants during 2014. Highlights of the training programmes for the year include:

Delivery of training to 217 principals and education officers under round one of the Effective Principals Training Programme.

Introduction of the Aspiring Principals Programme (APP), which is designed to adequately prepare individuals for the task of being a principal prior to recruitment. The postgraduate level programme is delivered in partnership with the University of the West Indies, Mona. The 40 individuals who have completed the APP will be conferred with the Professional Qualification for Principalship in March 2015.

Launch of the System and School Leaders Coaching Programme, developed in partnership with the British Council. The programme is a proactive approach to helping school and education system leaders improve their effectiveness and performance. Thirty persons who completed training will be accredited in February 2015.

Facilitation of the Leadership of Math training programme on behalf of the National Mathematics Team involving 291 high school principals and heads of departments, as well as 620 primary school principals.

As a fitting tribute to its year-long activities, in December NCEL received a Bright Spot Award for the Effective Principals Training Programme, as an innovative approach to leadership development in the Caribbean, from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

Training for Employment

Cognisant of the need to link education and training with employment, the Ministry of Education, through the HEART Trust/National Training Agency, implemented a number of training programmes aimed at achieving that objective. They include:

Launch of the Registered Apprenticeship Programme to expand opportunities for on-the-job training through a modernised system that is benchmarked to international standards. More than 300 apprentices are participating in the programme and the number will expand next year and beyond as more employers join the programme.

Launch of two new Workforce Colleges and two Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Institutes. The former Portmore HEART Academy was upgraded to the HEART College of Construction Services and the former Runaway Bay Academy is now the HEART College of Hospitality Services. The new North West TVET Institute is a merger of the previous training centres at Kenilworth, Granville, CATI and Falmouth, while the Eastern TVET Institute is the consolidation of former training centres at Stony Hill, Lluidas Vale and Above Rocks.

The upgrading of these institutions is expected to reposition TVET as lucrative and viable career opportunities which will also drive economic development. While their focus is on offering programmes within the framework of the National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica (NVQ-J), they may collaborate with existing degree-granting institutions to jointly deliver associate and bachelor degree programmes. Therefore, these institutions will provide a natural progression for students graduating from the secondary school system.

Relaunch of the Career Advancement Programme (CAP). The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the HEART Trust/NTA and other partners, reconfigured CAP to make it more targeted to the needs of the cohort for which it is intended. The programme is aimed at offering a second chance for educational attainment for the world of work or pursuit of further education to students age 16 to 18. These youngsters who have not sufficiently succeeded in traditional school exit examinations are placed in one of two groups: Students who elect to pursue technical and vocational competencies (technical component), and students in the general component who take courses enabling them to matriculate into the technical component or pursue higher qualifications. More than 6,000 youth will participate in the programme during the current academic year.

Integration of TVET into the secondary school curriculum. Through collaboration with HEART Trust/NTA, the ministry has introduced new and emerging skill areas into the curriculum of approximately 100 targeted schools. The skills include call contact centre, digital animation, crop production, motor vehicle air-conditioning repair, food and beverage service. The policy objective is that by 2016 students must sit at least one marketable skill-based subject in an external examination.

Early childhood development critical

Student achievements at the secondary and post-secondary levels are, in the main, pre-determined at the critical early-childhood stage. Therefore, the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Early Childhood Commission, continued throughout 2014 to make improvements to the system. Some of the initiatives include:

Seventy-six basic schools were rationalised and incorporated into 68 infant departments of primary schools where the requisite quality teaching and administrative support exists.

Commencement of a breakfast and lunch programme in Early Childhood Institutions (ECI) for 138,000 students.

At least 30 per cent of all early childhood practitioners gained qualifications at Level 111 and above from HEART Trust/NTA;

The Early Childhood Com-mission, for the first time, required ECIs to use development plans to guide their operations based on the findings of inspection reports. The use of development plans helps to standardise the operations of ECIs across the country and allows for greater accountability.

Improved Offerings for 2015

In the coming year, the ministry will continue to improve on the education offerings outlined above. Our plans for 2015-2016 include the following:

NCEL will broaden its programme offerings to include: Executive Leadership Training Programme for current and existing leaders within the central ministry and its agencies; School Financial Management and Administrative Training Programme for bursars, assistant bursars, clerical assistants and teachers in primary schools with financial responsibilities; and University and College Leaders Programme for senior administrators of the islands universities and colleges.

HEART Trust/NTA will facilitate a national youth programme, using a multi-agency approach to train and equip young people with relevant skills for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship. Priority will be given to under served youth, including persons with disabilities.

HEART/NTA will ramp up its training of individuals in a combination of higher level technical skills, equipping them for employment in sectors such as animation, maritime, transportation, alternative energy and business process outsourcing.

The ministry and the ECC will increase the number of basic schools to be integrated into infant departments to 204 by March 2015.

In closing, the ministry acknowledges the contribution of several individuals and entities in the public and private sector at home and abroad who continue to make invaluable contributions to the development of education.

Byron Buckley is the director, corporate communication, at the Ministry of Education. Email feedback to editorial@gleanerjm.com.