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Thwaites looking to reform ASTEP

Published:Saturday | December 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Nadisha Hunter, Staff Reporter

The Ministry of Education is looking into ways to transform the Alternative Secondary Transition Education Programme (ASTEP).

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday at the ministry's head offices at Heroes Circle, Kingston, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said while there are no plans to abandon the programme, it must be reformed in order to meet its objectives.

He said a comprehensive review was done on the programme and the report will be made public over the next two months.

ASTEP, which was conceptualised during Opposition Leader Andrew Holness' stint as minister of education, is a remedial programme for students who completed their years at the primary level of the education system without achieving mastery of the Grade Four Literacy Test.

first cohort

In March 2011, some 6,000 students were barred from sitting the Grade Six Achievement Test in a controversial move by the education ministry. Most of these students became the first cohort of students in ASTEP.

"It is worrying that the programme fairly can be said not to be achieving its principal intent of helping students to catch up, who couldn't be entered for the Grade Six Achievement Test, so that they can transition in the secondary system," the minister said.

In revealing some of the challenges faced with ASTEP, Thwaithes indicated that the programme does not appear to be equipping students to make the transition back into secondary education and the students are not showing signs of improvement in some subject areas, such as reading.

He added that these issues are coupled with the high levels of absenteeism demonstrated by the students and a lack of competence of many teachers in the programme who are not adept at techniques for dealing with special education children, even though a large number of the students in ASTEP have special needs.

He also said the Career Advancement Programme (CAP) is also under review and the results are expected next year.

"The CAP is a very expensive programme, it costs over $800 million a year, taken from the Heart Trust, and we are looking at whether this is achieving its objective," he said.