Approximately 4,000 teachers in the early childhood system are to be trained under a government-initiated programme, while 60 new institutions are slated to be constructed in the 2012-2013 academic year to get under way in the next three months.
This is among a raft of initiatives aimed at improving the quality of service delivered by early childhood education institutions, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites told journalists during a Gleaner Editors' Forum held at the newspaper's North Street, central Kingston, offices.
"We are advancing the training of over 4,000 teachers for greater skills in early childhood," Thwaites disclosed. "The perennial problem has been that so much of the early-childhood institutions (private) are without trained teachers."
He revealed that "there are 10 things that we are hoping to consider in the improvement of early childhood education in Jamaica".
In addition to the more than 4,000 teachers slated for training, Thwaites revealed that the Government would be recruiting another 200 trained teachers to bolster the system under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme.
Aides and teachers
Thwaites said these individuals would be brought into the system as aides and teachers in situations in which they are deemed capable. "We can't put them on the establishment but these are teachers who have been trained and are sitting at home," he asserted.
Added Thwaites, "We need them in the early childhood centres, we are going to train them and contract them in education ... we will offer them a stipend and when the post becomes available, they will be considered if they have done well but at least they will not be sitting at home."
The 60 new early-childhood centres are to be constructed with the assistance of Food For The Poor, the Chinese government, the CHASE Fund and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund.
"We are fortunate to have the construction of 60 new infant schools this year. We are standardising the materials largely through the Crayons Count initiative," he said.
Thwaites disclosed that the Government was also moving to extend the conventionally accepted age of students at the early-childhood level in keeping with international standards in order to improve the quality of teachers at the pre-primary level which includes kindergarten, basic and infant schools.
"We are properly redefining the early-childhood segment from pre-primary to the end of grade 3, as is the internationally scientific accepted definition," said Thwaites.
Thwaites revealed that his ministry also plans to improve the breakfast supplement for small children in the new school year.
"We are committed to that and wherever possible, we are going to cluster the basic schools into infant departments of the primary schools so that we can have a unit that the ministry can service better," he asserted.
The minister also highlighted plans to initiate parenting education at the early-childhood level.
"While this is a hard one, we must do it to try and articulate parental education with the basic-school experience as parents seem to be more interested in their children's education at this level and so we are going to try and link parenting to education."
The minister said these initiatives are being undertaken without the benefit of increased subventions from the Consolidated Fund.
"We are doing this by the use of various economies within our own budget, there is no new money coming in to do this," he asserted.