Primary and secondary schools improving, but...

Primary and secondary schools improving, but...

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, January 25, 2020

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THE National Education Inspectorate (NEI) says there has been a 23 per cent improvement in progress in primary and secondary schools since 2015, but at the same time it is worried about some of the findings on teaching practices.

Among the NEI's concerns are that many teachers continue to demonstrate weaknesses in the enactment of student-centred teaching and that, generally, classrooms are not conducive to student-centred learning activities.

Inspections found that there is inadequate integration across subject areas and lessons, and teachers' lesson evaluation. The NEI is also reporting that curriculum implementation teams are not fully operationalised in many schools, and that there are significant variations in how the education administrative regions are improving key indicators.

The inspectorate said, for example, in the school leadership and management indicator, there is disparity and unsatisfactory leadership and management up to as much as 20 percentage points.

“This is worrying,” the NEI said.

The key findings were released by the Ministry of Education yesterday at a press briefing at Pembroke Hall High School in St Andrew.

The inspections covered 554 primary schools and 199 secondary schools, which were reinspected between September 2015 and June 2019. This represents 70 per cent of the country's primary and secondary schools.

The inspectorate said the progress has been slow, and most schools are only in the satisfactory category but it is a welcome change. It noted that overall results in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations continue to be low, especially in mathematics.

A similar pattern was found at the primary level, with the cohort that sat the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) assessment in 2019 showing only 40 per cent proficiency and above in mathematics. The remaining 60 per cent was categorised as developing, or below. The NEI said this trend is relatively consistent across the four subject areas.

According to the NEI, there was a 22 per cent improvement in leadership, 18 per cent in use of resources, 17 per cent in teaching, 12 per cent in the curriculum, 11 per cent in safety and security, and eight per cent in personal development.

Discussing the findings, Chief Inspector Maureen Dwyer stressed that the indicators are trending in the right direction.

“We are not pleased that most of our schools are not in the exceptionally high category, but we are pleased that more of them are moving in the right direction,” she noted, adding that in the last round of inspections the NEI only found one school that was in need of immediate support — meaning all systems had broken down.

She said the NEI had spent a significant amount of time examining the quality of teaching in institutions, and was fairly satisfied that although the findings leaned towards satisfactory, it was “moving in the right direction”.

Minister without portfolio with responsibility for education Karl Samuda lamented the maladies and imbalances in the education system, which he blamed on the now-obsolete Common Entrance Examination.

“I've come to the conclusion that we started this process of denial many years ago. It started fundamentally with Common Entrance... It was a misguided concept. There was an inequity in the system, rooted in custom and inattentiveness over the last several decades. How in the world could we have expected not to be here today, with that sort of background?” he stated.

He argued that Common Entrance had not provided any differentials between children who were “severely challenged and those who are severely privileged”.

Samuda added that more important than the physical environment in which children are taught, is the focus on parenting and the work that has to start in the home. He said the ministry cannot easily correct deficiencies which started in early childhood.

“Too often we get sidetracked into believing that the real success in the ministry is to provide more schools, more classrooms, and perhaps we are overlooking the most fundamental of improvements that are necessary, which can only be found in the home,” he said.

Meanwhile, the chief inspector has made a number of recommendations to assist schools.

They include: More support for the role of teachers in providing quality education; re-examination of funding mechanisms for schools; and placing stronger emphasis on the role of principals as active partners in the country's development.


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