THE CENTRE of Excellence Programme is achieving success in improving the performance of students in six upgraded high schools, many of which were functioning below grade level.
University of the West Indies lecturer and consultant to the programme Dr Joan Ernandez said, while the targeted institutions are reporting different results, they are moving in the right direction.
"We are on track with improved grades. We have more children getting ones and twos, we are seeing an increase in the number of grade threes, because we have failing students coming over into threes now," said Ernandez.
"Quality is moving, the number of passes is moving, and we are achieving the target of getting far more children to sit the exams and to pass them and getting better grades," she added.
The programme, funded through a $100-million facility provided by the Jamaica National Building Society and the Victoria Mutual Building Society, was set up in 2008 to improve outcomes in six rural high schools where students were found to be reading below grade levels.
It is in support of the Ministry of Education's efforts to provide quality education in rural communities to support social transformation, by injecting much-needed technical and financial resources to improve student achievement, teacher quality, and organisational effectiveness.
Ernandez said these schools often receive Grade Six Achievement Test students who score anywhere between 20 per cent to 50 per cent on the language arts test.
"So, it means that they have been getting, over the years, a number of students who cannot read and write; they are not literate. What we find is that students would come in and are unable to access the grade-seven curriculum because their reading and writing skills are very poor," she noted.
Through the Centre of Excellence Programme, the aim is to transform these schools into model institutions for teaching and learning, which can be replicated across the education system.
Focus is placed on teaching and learning support, diagnostic testing, remedial education, student exchange (twinning project schools with schools in the diaspora), student leadership, mentorship, co-curricular activities and after-school programmes, and engaging the local community.
"The centres encourage the teachers to come out of their comfort zone, to move away from the chalk and talk. They provide the teachers with suggestions and resources that can be use to make the classroom more student-friendly, hence conducive to learning," Ernandez said.
The programme will conclude at the end of the 2012/2013 academic year.