Sat | Aug 24, 2019

Policy shift required to make second language compulsory in schools

Published:Thursday | August 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Dean-Roy Bernard (second left), permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, greets some of the Cuban teachers in Jamaica during the annual orientation for Cuban teachers, held at the Alhambra Inn on Tuesday.

Making the teaching of a second language compulsory in Jamaican schools will require a new policy directive, says Dean-Roy Bernard, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.

Bernard noted that the ministry is at the review and development stage of plans to put the necessary infrastructure in place to enable the policy shift.

"We cannot make learning a second language compulsory at this time because the infrastructure has not been built out as yet. We need to have the teachers in the classrooms; and the curriculum being universal and standardised across the board, before that is done," Bernard said.

He was responding to a question at the annual orientation for Cuban teachers at the Alhambra Inn, St Andrew, on Tuesday, where 24 Cuban educators were being given an official welcome and introduction into Jamaica's educational space by the ministry.

"We are at the policy review and development stage now, and then we have to look at the resources required to have this become a reality; but, certainly, the training at our teachers' colleges will have to be sorted out," Bernard said.

He told The Gleaner that he had asked for the language policy and that a document has been sent to him, which he's now in the process of perusing.

"But we cannot be talking about making it compulsory yet until we know that the system is ready to deliver the teaching and learning of any compulsory second language. It is important to have such policy so we can build out the infrastructure," he reiterated.

"Having the Cuban teachers coming, as they have been for the past decade, is the catalyst for what really needs to happen. We really need to have a robust system to build out the necessary infrastructure, and that must be guided by a policy," Bernard said.

In addition, he said lecturers and the syllabus to place teachers into the system, in tandem with the ICT sector, are also needed.

More than 300 Cuban teachers have taught locally in Jamaica as part of the programme, which has been supported by the Cuban government since its inception in 1997.

Education Minister Ruel Reid said he was particularly proud of the important development value of the bilateral agreement between the governments of Jamaica and Cuba, which has facilitated teachers from Cuba sharing their vast educational expertise with thousands of Jamaica teachers, students, administrators, parents, technocrats and other stakeholders in the system.

"The Ministry of Education will continue to support this programme, and we hope that it will be expanded in the years to come," he said.