IDB helping Jamaica's youth

By Jamaican Observer - Career & Education

Friday, October 24, 2014

THE Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is working with Jamaica to help upgrade skills and prepare young people for jobs.

According to IDB Country Representative in Jamaica, Therese Turner Jones, a major focus of this work is related to the transformation of the education system "through curriculum and assessment reforms; providing support for literacy and numeracy coordination and materials for their programmes, assisting in identifying children with special needs, and developing programmes to better support their school needs as well as their families."

Turner Jones said that the IDB, which has been working in Jamaica for 45 years, has also since 2007 supported new school construction at Cedar Grove Academy in Portmore upgraded a number of Primary Schools across the country, is supporting construction of additional classroom blocks and replacement of deteriorating buildings "so schools can move off the shift system and teachers and students can teach and learn in a safe, sound environment."

The IDB head told guests at the recent Heritage International Education Funds International and Heritage International Scholarship Trust Foundation 2013 Awards for Excellence in Early Childhood Education that a lot has been learned from a variety of IDB-supported studies in Jamaica and other countries.

Noting that the University of the West Indies has been a renowned trendsetter in cutting-edge research in this field, led by Dr Maureen Samms Vaughn, Turner Jones said that much of this research has won global recognition and forms the basis for a number of policy recommendations suggesting that from birth to about three years old - an integrated approach to early childhood education is critical for long-term development and good educational and social outcomes. This work, she said, is the basis for a review on how children learn and how teachers can best help them.

Jamaica, Turner Jones said, has made significant gains in education over the last decade and is nearing the worldwide goal of having all primary age children in school by 2015. Pointing to improving percentages of passes in various examinations on par with the Caribbean average, she said that "consistence and persistence on the part of schools to teach foundation skills will lead to achievement of Jamaica's goals for the national education strategy and vision 2030."

Noting an increase in the number of qualified teachers at the degree level and specialists in various subject areas, Turner Jones said, "We encourage the Jamaica Teachers Association to collaborate with the Jamaica Teaching Council to raise the status of the teaching profession by ensuring that all teachers are registered and certified to teach the subjects they are assigned."

She said that the IDB, in recognising the importance of proper training and the changing role of teachers, is providing assistance to the Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission in carrying out an analysis and needs assessment of teacher training college programmes to better align the training with the demands of the new curriculum and the changing demands of the global job market.

Turner Jones said that with emerging new technologies, social media and global connections, students and more knowledgable on a host of topics and the teacher's role has changed to one of facilitator, helping students manage knowledge, find and determine credible sources of information.

She challenged all Jamaican teachers to "become results-oriented, be game-changers, experts in your field with the ever-changing role which is to channel knowledge and energy into the learning environment so that children can keep pace within the global market and become more competitive."

Turner Jones lauded Heritage International Education Funds International and the Heritage International Scholarship Trust Foundation for "pioneering a viable programme of savings for tertiary education and for honouring outstanding teachers in Early Childhood Education." The annual Awards are presented to teachers who have made a difference in the lives of their students through their teaching methods. Each of three awardees received a plaque and US$1,000.