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Competition seeks to add to nation building

Published:Sunday | June 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Children playing with balance at Do Good Jamaica Festival.

KINGSTON:Some 13 years ago, M&M Jamaica Limited (an engineering and project-management company), under the leadership of CEO Don Mullings, conceptualised, planned and executed the first M&M Jamaica Limited Math Competition in St Elizabeth in response to a deep concern about numeracy rates. Since then, the event has become a staple on the parish's event calendar.

"The data on our children's math performance keeps alarming me. The low levels of numeracy being experienced in our country needed to be confronted. This competition was my response to the problem - trying to let students have an appreciation of the subject," Mullings shared.

Only 42.2 per cent of students who sat the Mathematics Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate Examinations in 2013 passed the subject; while only 59 per cent of students who sat the Grade Four Achievement Test in 2013 demonstrated mastery. As Jamaican students continue to underperform in mathematics, the Ministry of Education's current target is to achieve 85 per cent numeracy among the primary-level grade-four cohort by 2015.

The competition engages the talents of 50 high-school students, each representing one of the five grades (7-11) from each of the 10 high schools in the parish. Pupils from grades seven, eight, and nine sat an exam based on the Reform of Secondary Education (ROSE) Programme while 10th and 11th graders were assessed against the CXC syllabus. The percentage score for each student was later calculated and the top three performers from each grade awarded monetary prizes. The scores from each school were also averaged in order to determine the overall top three schools. M&M awarded over $150,000 in cash prizes to participants of the competition, with the four champion students receiving additional cash incentives towards their school expenses. This year, Munro College came out on top, above defending champions Hampton School for Girls with Black River High School following, placing second and third, respectively.

Struggling economy

It is no secret that Jamaica's economy continues to struggle, characterised by slow growth, high debt, high crime, corruption, large-scale unemployment and underemployment, and a debt-to-gross domestic product ratio of nearly 130 per cent. It is, therefore, imperative that Jamaicans be able to compete in a global market and market their skills to survive, earn, and spend money that will be pumped back into the economy. The basic skills required are literacy and numeracy.

Studies have shown that high numeracy levels yield a more productive workforce which can make a positive contribution to society. Education, which includes numeracy and literacy advancements, is thus an important agent to support the transformation of the Jamaican economy. It is also a vital factor in creating human and social capital, essential ingredients for economic transformation.

"This year, we observed that more students at Grades 10 and 11 performed commendably, in some instances, with near-perfect scores," Dr Watson said. In keeping with one of the competition's main objectives, 'Encourage teachers to share resources', M&M Jamaica also organised workshop sessions among teachers. These specialist teachers conducted sessions among their peers where ideas and new methods of teaching mathematics were explored.

For more information about M&M Jamaica Ltd, please call 906-6760-1 or visit www.mmjamaica.com.