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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 that advertising and learning go hand in hand.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

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