Primary schools to get specialist teachers come September – Williams
As part of the overall efforts to bring Jamaica’s education system to a top tier ranking globally, Education Minister Fayval Williams says that specialist teachers will be put in place for at least three subject areas in the primary education system when school reopens in September.“Having our schools ranked highly, globally, will require us to have specialist teachers in our primary schools for the fundamental subjects of mathematics and English language, and I dare say science and technology as well. That change to have specialist teachers in our primary schools will begin in this school year, 2021,” said Williams, while addressing an awards ceremony for 125 students at the Montego Bay Community College in St James recently.While she did not state how many specialist teachers would be employed for this initiative or how many primary schools would be targeted, Williams said it was important to have an accurate assessment of children’s learning abilities from early childhood in order to prepare them for primary school.“The work to make our education sector highly ranked globally includes having more early childhood practitioners who truly understand the significance of the developmental progression of our children at that early age. We have begun that assessment and are taking steps to have it institutionalised so that our six-year-old children are ready when they step into our primary schools,” said Williams.Williams’ declaration echoes a similar announcement from the Ministry of Education in 2017 when it set out on a pilot project to introduce specialist mathematics and language arts teachers at the primary level. At that time, 35 schools were slated to participate in the project, which was part of the ministry’s wider efforts to improve students’ mathematics and language arts skills.However, with schools having to cease physical classes due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, concerns have arisen about the recovery of learning time which has been lost due to students being away from the classroom. The Ministry of Education has estimated that approximately 120,000 students have been missing from school since last year, although stakeholders put the number as high as 150,000.Williams noted that the roll-out of her ministry’s summer school programme, while geared towards rectifying the learning loss, is also about delivering quality education.“It is not enough for our students to go to school from 8:30 until 2:30, with time for recess or other activities, and expect them to be high-performing, and that is why we have rolled out our national summer school and homework programme. Yes, it is about recovering smarter from the learning loss as a result of the pandemic, but it is also about us understanding that education takes time,” said Williams.