Written by: MICKELLA ANDERSON
Progress is being made by the Government in implementing recommendations outlined in the 2021 ‘Reform of Education in Jamaica’ Report.
This was disclosed by Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, during a press conference at Jamaica House on Thursday (December 1).
Mrs. Williams said gains have been made in five of the seven areas of the Professor Orlando Patterson-chaired Jamaica Education Transformation Commission (JETC) report.
These are governance, administration leadership and legislation; early-childhood education; teaching curriculum, and teacher training; tertiary education, and infrastructure and technology.
The remaining areas are technical and vocational education and training (TVET), and finance.
Mrs. Williams said Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, has requested that the JETC further explore the TVET area, while indicating the need for collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service in relation to finance.
Implementation of the recommendations is being monitored by the Education Transformation and Oversight Committee (ETOC), chaired by Dr. Adrian Stokes.
Minister Williams indicated that the recommendation for secondary schools to be evaluated and ranked using the value-added procedure complementing the traditional evaluation of the National Education Inspectorate (NEI), was utilised in approximately 150 institutions during the 2021/22 and 2022/23 NEI inspection cycle.
The Ministry has also proposed an education philosophy as recommended in the report.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Williams advised that the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) Bill is before a Joint Select Committee of Parliament, to complete the legislative process of enabling the JTC to act as the sole entity to issue teacher licences.
She further indicated that a firm has been contracted to manage the Education Management Information System (EMIS) implementation process, where this has been identified as critically needed, with an oversight committee established in November 2022. Data-gathering sessions have also been conducted.
Additionally, funding has been obtained from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for consultancy, in relation to a strategic review of the Ministry’s structure, which is slated to be undertaken.
The JETC has also recommended that the funding model for primary and secondary schools be reformed in order to enhance equity.
Mrs. Williams pointed out, however, that schools are currently funded on a per-capita or student basis.
“So, each school, regardless of where you are on the spectrum, if you are a school that’s way outperforming, you’re going to get the same per capita amount as a school that’s underperforming. That has been the formula for many decades. The report is saying that we should look at reforming that,” she said, adding that “we’ve started to look at the work”.
“We’re not at a point where we can come out with any new formula just yet. But serious work is going on in terms of looking at what formulas exist across the world [to determine] how we could do it differently in Jamaica to enhance equity,” the Minister added.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Williams advised that “serious work” is being done in the review of the Education Act and Regulations, now in progress.
She said in the area of technology, “we are way, way ahead… way down the wicket by any measure that you look at, whether the student or the school; we are putting in the infrastructure so that the education system is not left behind”.
For his part, Dr. Stokes, said the Ministry has committed to increasing the pace of the recommendations’ execution.
He advised that the Mona School of Business’ consulting arm has been contracted to finalise a plan to guide the implementation of the recommendations. This, Dr. Stokes said, by developing an implementable project plan.
“In other words, turning the recommendations into initiatives that are time-bound, measurable and specific,” he explained.
The ‘Reform of Education in Jamaica’ Report, which has 54 prioritised recommendations, is a blueprint for establishing a comprehensive strategy to improve student performance and educational productivity across the sector.