Martin Baxter, Gleaner Writer
In a glance into the future of education in Jamaica, principals, math teachers and the media were yesterday given a formal introduction to the Mathematics Enhancement Programme (MEP) - an online mathematics textbook created for Jamaica's high schools.
"E-learning leads the way, e-learning makes a brighter day," was the jingle that rang out from the sound system during the press launch of the MEP at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.
The idea behind the MEP, which began being developed in 2005, is simple - increase the candidacy and pass rate of Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) mathematics and prepare the Jamaican's of tomorrow to compete in the global labour market. And by publishing the teaching and learning resource online, MEP also embraces the information age, where iPhones, iPads and tablet PCs are increasingly rendering blackboards and chalk obsolete.
Collaboration between the University of Technology, local math teachers and specialists and the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching at Plymouth University in England saw the creation of the online resource that incorporates all elements of the CSEC mathematics curriculum.
"This is really a very important day," said Robert Philips, education specialist at e-Learning Jamaica.
"A strategy and plan has been laid out for the improvement of teaching and learning in many subjects, but for mathematics in particular. And we have reached a point of transition in that the major aspects of the preparation have come to a point where they can be said to impact teaching and learning in Jamaica. And if we are courageous enough, we can say teaching and learning in the Caribbean."
Changed attitude to math needed
Dr Mary Campbell, assistant chief education officer of the core curriculum unit at the Ministry of Education, stressed the importance of reasoning, problem solving and critical thinking in producing the next generation of Jamaican leaders.
"In Jamaica, there is concern about the unsatisfactory performance of our students in mathematics at all levels of the system. Poor attitudes towards the subject is evident among many students and some view mathematics as being of little value to them outside of school," she said.
"There is also the concern that an insufficient number of persons in the society are equipped with the mathematical skills required to function effectively in life after school. As Jamaica strives to take its place within a fiercely competitive and highly globalised marketplace, the persons who will be best equipped to provide leadership in many significant areas are those in whom the reasoning, problem solving and critical thinking skills are best developed. It is claimed that mathematics classroom is the ideal nursery for the development of such skills."
The MEP provides interactive problem-based learning methods for students and instructional resources for teachers focusing on all areas of the CSEC curriculum. It is freely available on the e-Learning Jamaica website at www.e-ljam.net, alongside other multimedia instructional resources and test preparation questions.