JAMPACT Response to the Ministry of Education Green Paper
(Delivered to Minister of Education the Hon. Burchell Whiteman, 2 March, 2000)
As a policy document, The Green paper incorporates the findings of the 1998 KPMG/Peat
Marwick Report and sets out goals and objectives for education reform on the island in an
attempt to elicit thoughts and action from concerned stakeholders and Jamaicans in general.
In our opinion, however there are two crucial omissions: (i) the inclusion of the informal
education system (community institutions - libraries, museums, families, etc.) as more than
a part of civil society and (ii) programmes targeting the education of the nation's young
males given the crisis we face.
The members of JAMPACT believe that the suggestions contained in The Green Paper are a
step in the right direction. Its goals and objectives are generally consistent with
international models of "education for development policy," but it is conservative in
terms of the specific goals that it outlines. One such example is the one per cent
annual increase in the age cohort advancing to tertiary education between the year
2000 and 2005. We believe that it would be beneficial to all education stakeholders
if mechanisms to track the effects of the policies contained within The Green Paper
are developed and the results shared with the public.
JAMPACT's two areas of focus are education and economic policy and as a result we propose
that our best contributions to these policy debates are not in the realm of more policy
debate but rather in the mode of potential considerations for practice. To that end the
following is a list of areas within the education system that we feel were not given due
consideration in the Green Paper and which we feel are most urgently in need of further
research and development:
- Parents/Families as Educators
- Teacher Training
- Literacy as including technological and cultural literacy - the role of computers and cultural organizations.
- The Media as Educator
- Play as a Learning Tool
- Conflict Resolution in the Classroom
Our collective experience to date has exposed us to numerous types of education systems,
both formal and informal, existing in inner city areas whose economic and social conditions
do not differ greatly from Jamaica's. As such, we propose to engage in dialogue with
relevant MOEC, the JTA and private sector personnel in Jamaica, and with relevant school
administrators and ngos in the New York/Tristate area to assist in the development of
concrete and cost effective project proposals and implementation strategies (including
budgeting and partnership financing) related to the areas listed above.
We will elaborate on the six areas listed above by including suggestions and references
to projects that have the potential to serve as models for consideration. The first is
connected to a recent study conducted by the US Westchester Institute and The Center
for Social Organization of Schools. It established a correlation between pupil
achievement in educational settings and the levels of parental involvement,
finding unsurprisingly that higher levels of student achievement were associated
with higher levels of parental involvement. The second involves "Teach For America,"
a ten-year old, US non-profit organization that has to date placed 5,000 outstanding
recent college graduates in US primary and secondary schools around the country. The
third includes greater investigation of the role of cultural organizations such as the
island's museums that represent underutilized cultural education resources. The fourth
relates to the role of television and radio programmes in "edutainment," the fifth to
the importance of play for all children in the classroom and at home and the sixth to
models of teaching for non-violent conflict resolution.
The Creation of Community Based Parent Advocacy Centres (CPACs) through the parent
education unit at the MOEC
PACs will be non-partisan, volunteer based organizations that serve as a nexus for
information collection and dissemination regarding the development of parent advocacy
skills relative to their children's educational programs and services. This would
include parent counseling sessions explaining the importance of family influence
on and involvement in their children's education, information on parental due
process rights and procedures and explanations of available community resources
and the roles of relevant government agencies. These CPACs would incorporate
existing parent/teacher associations and assist in the creation of new ones. They
would also serve to address the overriding need, at the organizational level, for
coordination and collaboration among parent centers in the urban and rural areas so
that there can be effective sharing of experience and expertise that will help to
maximize information distribution and access to basic social services. Obvious targets
include the link between poor and improper diet and student achievement, as well as the
risks of alcohol abuse, smoking, drug abuse, and improper diet on a child's prenatal
development. CPACs are one potential way to address the need to increase parent
understanding of the educational process as it directly relates to their children's
education as well as better incorporate their thoughts and suggestions as implied in
The Green Paper. They are also an example of the collaborative effort mentioned in
The Green Paper that involves creating linkages with government agencies,
community-based organizations, schools, churches, and private sector organizations.
The Creation of a Young Teacher Corps through the MOEC and Lift Up Jamaica.
This programme will involve the creation and training of a corps of recent
university graduates as teachers. While the initial number of corps members
selected will be small the numbers will be expected to grow as recognition and
support of the programme grows. Corps members will be selected based on the
qualities proven to make excellent teachers - an ability to thrive on overcoming
challenges, a relentless drive to achieve results, a commitment to setting only
the highest expectations for themselves and their students. New corps members
come together for an intensive training program where they gain experience teaching
while receiving guidance from veteran educators. They would then be placed in urban
or rural sites selected on the basis of need and private sector sponsorship for
their salaries as regular, beginning teachers is sought. Corps members would also
qualify for student loan deferral and payment of accrued interest during their two
years of service, which means that corps members need not make any payments on
qualified loans during the two years. This programme would also be an example of a
partnership - this time between universities, the MOEC and the private sector.
Technological and Cultural Literacy.
Greater collaboration between the Jamaican Computer Society and with charity
organizations overseas should be organized to ensure: (i) the provision and
maintenance of computers within all of our schools and libraries; (ii) the
integration of computers into the school curriculum and both in service and
pre service teacher training programmes; (iii) increased public awareness
regarding importance of computers in the global age; (iv) the formation of
partnerships between more museums and schools so as to provide greater access
to cultural teaching and learning objects; (v) the integration of museum education
methods into teacher training so as to increase use of museums as teaching resources;
(vi) the development of curricula based on Jamaican music and art forms. New York City
contains a wealth of information on models of various distance education programmes,
technology in education programmes and museum education programmes. JAMPACT can help
ensure connections with Teachers' College, Columbia University, a leader in technology
education interventions, and with various museums such as the Boston Children's Museum,
The Children's Museum of Manhattan and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Media as Educator
Greater use of the media in the implementation of educational programmes and objectives
is a must given the strength of its impact on our children and families. Some examples
include (i) the promotion of television and radio programmes such as The School's
Challenge Quiz and the Cavity Fighters' Club. (ii) The production of child-friendly
educational documentaries AND/OR interstitials (the commercial fillers between shows)
highlighting famous Jamaicans, famous dates in Jamaican history, facts about Jamaica,
math/science tips, reading strategies, etc. (iii) The coordination of public figures
(athletes, musicians, etc.) promoting the importance of education. (iv) The promotion
of literacy skills through print and electronic media - tips on reading strategies -
how to use objects in the home to educate...funded by establishing partnerships with
private sector organizations...so that advertising and learning go hand in hand.
Play as a Learning Tool
Much research exists documenting the social, emotional and intellectual gains to be
had from the inclusion and facilitation of play in the classroom and at home. More
safe outdoor spaces need to be created that foster gross motor skill development and
promote social interaction. Ways in which play can become part of the curriculum should
be included in both in service and pre-service teacher training programmes particularly
at the early-childhood level where free play and the types of materials that can be used
to facilitate such child centred and child directed exploration are investigated.
Conflict Resolution in the Classroom
Similarly, numerous studies show the impact of non-violent conflict resolution
techniques in the classroom and their impact on life outside of the classroom.
The tremendous groundwork laid by the PALS programme should be capitalized on and
the subject matter mandated part of the national primary school curricula. All
children should be exposed to mediation techniques and non-violent problem solving
methods. The strides made in those schools involved in PALS should be analyzed and
disseminated and the PALS project officers contracted as consultants to investigate
and adapt new methods of teaching conflict resolution particularly at the early
childhood level as well as to spread their present primary school methodology
across the island with their textbooks subsumed under the MOEC's purview.
The above is simply an example of how JAMPACT might act on its commitment to become
involved in the education policy debate in Jamaica and where we feel we would be most
useful - as a research and development liasion between education programming in Jamaica
and in the US. We look forward to discussing these issues further with you and further
delineating how we might best contribute.
About this document:
This policy paper was prepared by JAMPACT's Education Committee,
in collaboration with JAMPACT's Executive Committee
Your input is important. Broader private sector participation
is vital to the improvement of the educational system. Please send all feedback
regarding this document to email@example.com.