Supporting Educational Transformation in Jamaica
J&A has been working with USAID in Jamaica for over 25 years in the areas of education and training, gender and youth. After well over a decade of providing technical assistance services directly to the Jamaican Ministry of Education (MOE), J&A recently completed the transition of the USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project (JBEP) (2010-2013) to the Jamaican MOE in an effort to further strengthen capacity within the government and increase the use of host country systems, in line with USAID Forward’s Implementation and Procurement Reform objectives.
Dr. Jean Beaumont, JBEP Project Director, reading
The J&A USAID/JBEP team, composed of 15 local employees and eight local consultants, assisted the Jamaican MOE in rolling out tested educational practices in reading and mathematics in 250 primary, all-age and junior high schools island-wide. J&A worked closely with a wide range of educational organizations to gain support for educational accountability. The J&A team provided institutional capacity development to expand decentralization of Ministerial functions, namely through technical assistance to the new Jamaica Regional Education Authorities, the Jamaica Teaching Council and the National Jamaica Education Inspectorate to monitor school management. The project supported and encouraged innovative approaches that built capacity by emphasizing the use of measurement tools and training for oversight, monitoring, accountability and policy dialogue at the central and local levels of the MOE as well as at the school-community level. An Education Management Information System, called the Jamaica Schools Administrative Software (JSAS), was developed on behalf of the MOE to track the real-time progress of students, teachers and schools throughout the country to help with accountability. The project training component required strong collaboration with the MOE, the Joint Board of Teacher Education and the Jamaican Teaching Council.
The project also received complementary funding from the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) to support activities in 54 of the project schools located in high crime-prone and volatile communities. In 2011, J&A launched the five-week Camp Summer Plus program which was designed to help underperforming students from these schools improve reading skills (and self-esteem) during the summer months. Based on the success of Camp Summer Plus in 2011, J&A scaled up the program in 2012 to reach a total of 1,000 students across three regions and at seven sites. J&A worked with private sector partners, such as The Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), to donate books to be used by children at the 2012 Camp Summer Plus.
Hon. Ronald Thwaites, Minister of Education, and Denise Herbol, USAID Mission Director in Jamaica, accept books for the Camp from Alicia Young of JNBS..
Ms. Clover Kerr, Local Reading Coach interacting with class.
Another successful intervention has been the project’s support of local reading coaches to improve student learning in Jamaica; an initiative that began in 2012 when it was observed that teaching practices were not always reflecting the concepts imparted during teacher training sessions. To address this concern, J&A trained a cadre of local reading coaches to provide onsite support to project schools to increase the use of technology equipment and various instructional strategies. The aim was to improve teacher planning, instructional delivery and monitoring and supervision in the early grades. The J&A project team also developed a curriculum for remedial instruction for Grade 3 students reading at levels below Grade 1. The coaches excelled in their efforts and brought a new dynamic to the reading programs of project schools. The result of coaching revealed that 43% of students achieved mastery on the Grade 4 Literacy Test, evidence of improved performances among the project’s most marginalized students. The J&A USAID/JBEP team has made significant inroads in support of improvements to primary school leadership, teaching and learning standards. The MOE is scaling up the project’s early grade reading program recommendations, including the use of reading coaches.
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