Wednesday, February 21, 2018
The following is Part II of a three-part edited version of a presentation by General Secretary of Education International Mr Fred van Leeuwen, who was the keynote speaker at the Jamaica Teachers’ Association Education Conference held in Montego Bay, April 18-20, 2017.

In 1966 UNESCO presented a ground breaking report by Jacques Delors, a former president of the European Commission, a report many of you are familiar with – entitled “Learning: The Treasure Within”. This report, written by Jacques Delors, threw the spotlight on the future of education in the 21st century. It still is considered just as important today as it was 21 years ago.

The report is built upon four pillars, it distinguishes four goals of learning: Learning to Know; Learning to Do; Learning to Be; and Learning to Live Together. These four pillars were designed as the basis for successful learning in what the report referred to as ‘a rapidly changing world.’ Well, we are living that world today. But when I look at these four pillars, I am afraid that we are falling far short on two of them.

For all that education teaches us to know and how to do – the practical skills that help us navigate life - it also holds the immense importance of passing along the values on which our cultures and societies are based. And I am afraid that when I look at the current situation in the world and when I look at rising extremism, at the suffering of the people of Syria, Iraq , Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, at the many millions of forcibly displaced persons, at the suppression of democratic freedoms, at the growing inequity across the world, it appears to me that two of those four pillars, Learning to Be, and Learning to Live Together, which help establish identity, tolerance and cohesiveness, need some serious maintenance.

RELATED ARTICLE: Fred van Leeuwen: Defending education as a public good | Pt. 1

Anyway, we run the risk of all four pillars, which stand for a holistic and life-long learning approach to education, crumble and be declared a UNESCO’s world heritage site, when the teaching profession, which is to bring Delors’ concept to life, will continue losing its strength, losing its attractiveness and losing confidence.

The ILO/UNESCO recommendation on the status of teachers which is a set of international standards for the teaching profession, adopted by the international community in 1966 when the world’s population was half of what it is today, and we were still three years away from stepping foot on the moon. Although written in a bygone era its foundation remains true to this day. If you do not know the recommendation, you should download it from UNESCO's website.

The recommendation is far more than the text printed on the page. Greater than the sum of its parts. It first of all affirms the transformational role that teachers play in the lives of children, their families and in their communities.

Last year I visited a school in Berlin that opened their doors to refugee children. Children, in spite of the trauma from all that they had been through, were given a taste of a better future and a little bit of hope. I asked the principal: "How many refugee students do you have?” She said: “I do not know. We don’t count them.” This response, I think, may be the essence, if not the very soul, of the teaching profession. The desire to build equity - in the classroom, in the school, and yes, in society at large.

Being a teacher is about moral purpose; about a commitment to making a positive difference in young people’s lives. And that commitment is on full display every day around the world.

It is about helping to ensure that young people are able to support themselves, to contribute to society as a whole, whether as employees, entrepreneurs, professionals, artists, yes even politicians. The transfer of basic and advanced knowledge and skills is at the core of our mission. And there is another, perhaps even more essential task: Imparting shared values, human rights values, democratic values.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”

Some wonder whether today’s education and the teaching profession are still Roosevelt’s safeguard of democracy, or are we gradually becoming the safeguard of markets, shaping future consumers, rather than citizens of the future; active and critical citizens able to assert ones’ own rights while respecting the rights of others.

Not so long ago I received an email message. “Are you the Mr. Van Leeuwen who was my teacher in the sixth grade in 1976? I have tried to find you for many years”. I confirmed my identity. Then I received a long message informing me of what had happened since he had left my class. That note brought back memories of a small, ten-year-old white South African boy, Jacques, who had moved to the Netherlands with his parents. His father was a visiting professor at the university. One day, students stormed into the classroom after gym class pushing a sobbing Jacques towards my desk. They told me that the coach had said that he came from an “evil country”. Anger about the coach’s insensitivity prompted me to spend the rest of the morning talking about apartheid and that children could not be held responsible for it. “On that morning my life changed,” Jacques writes me 30 years later. “I decided that apartheid should be opposed.”

Jacques completed his secondary education in a whites-only system that he resented. At university, he was elected to the leadership of the South African white student union which became an unexpected source of opposition to the minority regime of (former president Frederik Willem) De Klerk contributing to the release of Nelson Mandela, the end of apartheid and the creation of a multi-racial democracy.

Two years ago at a UN meeting in NY, I received a text message: "Look behind the South African Education Minister". I looked and saw Jacques waving and laughing. Today, he leads South Africa’s national people’s integration programme.

This story is not about me or my student, Jacques. Many of my colleagues are able to share these kind of experiences. It is about the professional space, and autonomy teachers need to motivate, enlighten and inspire their students.

Although the recommendation is promising us all of that, too often teachers are boxed into situations that reduce them to content delivery agents and test score attendants rather than educators. What is too commonly referred to as ‘personalised learning’ is often no more than scripted learning. Not personal at all. And, the “whole child” is, in effect, sliced into pieces. De-professionalization of teaching and the decline of terms and employment conditions are among the most important challenges confronting our profession.

To be continued...

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An appreciation service was held on Sunday the 26th of June at the Ludford Mount Baptist Church, Bois Content to honour the retiring principal of the Bois Content Primary School.

Kathleen Jones, who has been principal of the institution since 2012, will officially retire on 21st April, 2017 after going on eight month’s pre-retirement leave.

The appreciation service was planned by teachers of the school in collaboration with the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) and attended by friends and well-wishers from the wider community and further afield, as well as various other churches in the area; also teachers and students from the school along with members of Jones’ extended family.

The service was officiated by host pastor Rev. Arnold Parkinson, who gave the welcoming address, before Rev. Lenford Newell, chairman of the school board, delivered the statement of purpose.

“I hope that the moment spent together here will resonate in our minds for many generations to come... as we celebrate this great milestone,” said Rev. Newell.

Tributes were also offered by a number of persons, including Frederick Bailey, member of the school board; Valerie Peters, member of staff; Shinelle Gayle, a student of the school, and Paulette Jackson of the Parent Teachers Association (PTA).

Jones, described as a strict disciplinarian, was nevertheless lauded as being well-loved and respected by her students and staff.

Calat Davis-Harris presented Jones with a plaque bearing a citation which read in part: “We laud you for the sterling contribution you have made and the indelible mark you have left on the sands of time.

“You have served with distinction, dignity and integrity. With diplomacy and determination, you have executed your duties well. Your desire for success, candid opinion, words of wisdom and encouragement has carried many through copious challenging moments and to you, we are eternally grateful.”

Responding afterwards, the proud yet humble teacher thanked all who had gotten together to pay tribute to her and said that she had so many “treasured and indelible memories” of her years in the field of education and that her life had been made richer by virtue of her service to humanity.

Rev. Orville Vassell, who presented the sermon, encapsulates Jones’ contribution to the education sector and the community by juxtaposing her work to the Biblical story in St Luke Chapter 21 which spoke of the widow who humbly gave two small coins which was all that she had, but in reality had given more than the large sums given by the rich and affluent who gave mostly for show.

In 1977 Jones embarked on a teaching career at the Moneague Teacher’s College where she gained a school certificate before returning in 1993 to acquire a teaching diploma. In 1999 the Bois Content Primary alumnus and native was successful in completing her bachelor’s degree in education, specialising in learning difficulties.

Prior to, and during her period of studies, Jones, who is the mother of twin boys, taught at the St Jude’s and Pembroke Hall primary schools. But it was at her alma mater where she left a lasting legacy, a journey that began in 1984.

Regarding her retirement, Jones, a devote Christian, said: “I plan to do part-time ministry with the Jamaica Baptist Union and enter into entrepreneurship in farming.”

“I am thinking about doing a biography at some point,” she added.

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The Ministry of Education will be training 40 persons who will, in turn, train classroom teachers in the differences in how boys and girls learn and the strategies that can be implemented to close the gender achievement gap.

This decision follows the Ministry’s participation in a conference about how boys learn, hosted by the Gurian Institute in Denver, Colorado, in July this year. The American association is managed by the famous brain-based researcher and author, Dr. Michael Gurian and his colleague, Dakota Hoyt.

National Numeracy Coordinator, Dr. Andre Hill, who was in attendance, said the conference allowed for “a more fulsome appreciation” of the scientific data on the differences in the brain function and anatomy of boys and its impact the way they learn in the classroom.

“Starting later this year, we want to train a set of ‘trainers of trainers’ in the basic principles of brain-based research as shared with us by the Gurian Institute; the differences in terms of how boys and girls learn as well as strategies that can be employed in the regular classroom and also by parents, because we are going to be targeting both teachers and parents,” he said.

At least two teachers from each school will be trained across the six regions. These teachers will then be responsible for the training of their colleagues.

“Teachers and other stakeholders, including parents, need to have a greater appreciation of the very real differences, so that learning activities can be better organised to meet the needs of both boys and girls,” Dr. Hill said.

He also noted that the Ministry of Education is looking into possible policies that can be developed for gender-based learning, to be informed by the data coming out of the conference, as well as by research being done by the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) and the University of the West Indies.

Dr. Hill pointed out that girls have always outperformed boys in the history of the Grade Four Literacy Test.

Despite marked improvement by the boys in last year’s sitting of the test, with 80.3 per cent of boys achieving Mastery, up from 68.6 per cent the previous year, girls were still ahead by 12.2 per cent.

“The realities are there, so the Ministry is now embarking on strategic plans to better address the ways in which boys and girls are taught in the formal education system, hoping of course to narrow the gender gap in performance as a result,” he said.

Dr. Hill said that brain-based research indicates that a female brain develops faster than that of a male, particularly in the area of language, with girls developing language skills at least one and half years earlier than boys.

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Jamaicans will pay an average increase of six per cent for textbooks this academic year.

This is the word from the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) based on a survey of 130 text books (13 infant, 36 primary and 81 secondary), in 47 book outlets across the island. However, within the Greater Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) the average percentage increase is five per cent which is eight per cent less than last year. With regards to the average price increase within other urban centres the average increase is five per cent which reflects a seven per cent decrease over the 2014 prices.

The annual school textbook survey, conducted between July 29 and August 7, is based on an analysis of price movements. It should be noted that during the July 2014 – July 2015 period, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) recorded an inflation rate of 3.8 per cent.

Islandwide, the average price movement amongst secondary texts revealed an increase of six per cent; while for primary and infant level texts, the average increase was five per cent.

The prices for infant, primary and secondary level textbooks were all found to be competitively priced as there was no significant variation among the outlets surveyed.

While most books have seen an increase in the shelf price, a few books have seen a price reduction. The most significant price increase was 67 per cent recorded by the Secondary level text: Advanced Spanish Vocabulary (Second Edition) by Isabel MeleroOrta. The most significant price reduction was 43 per cent for the Secondary level text: Basic Needle Work (Fifth Edition) (Metric) by Winefride M. Bull.

In terms of availability, islandwide, 87 of the 130 books were readily available in the bookstores surveyed. Infant level textbooks had an overall availability rate of 82 per cent, compared to 73 per cent for primary level texts and 49 per cent for secondary texts. Texts from the more technical or less popular subject areas like technical drawing and metal work were less available. Infant, primary and secondary level books on average were available in 50 per cent of the outlets surveyed. Generally, infant and primary level texts comprising mainly workbooks had more availability across all outlets. However, as it relates to the general availability of books across 2014 and 2015 of comparable texts, there was an increase of 10 per cent. More specifically, in the Greater KMR the availability decreased by 15 per cent, but in other urban towns there was an increase of 7 per cent.

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A new Associate Degree in Logistics Management is among a slew of new educational programmes which have been initiated by the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ).

The course, which has been developed in collaboration with the Canada-based Niagra College, will be offered by Excelsior Community College in Kingston.

The curriculum will provide students with professional certification in supply chain management.

This and other programmes were officially launched today (January 5), during a ceremony at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.

The others are Associate of Science Degree in Social Work, Automobile Repairs, Engineering and Criminal Justice.

Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, welcomed the new programmes, noting that the CCJ, through today’s launch, is advancing persons through quality education and training.

He noted that persons now have the opportunity to gain new skills and certification in areas which are now in demand.

“These are useful and beneficial programmes for persons choosing a first time career, those adults seeking to improve their marketability by changing their professions or by adding another certifiable skill in response to the changing economy,” the Minister said.

He further emphasised the importance of the community colleges movement, noting that these institutions are no longer the “second cousins of the education system.”

“We have to flip the system decisively. Academic competencies are important, but they are no higher up the hierarchy of achievement than the practical and technical skills which the community colleges offer,” he said.

In her overview, Executive Director, CCCJ, Dr. Donna Powell-Wilson, noted that the programmes are highly applied, and allow learners to be better prepared for careers, by facilitating on-the-job training and improving their personal knowledge and skills.

“At the CCCJ, we believe in partnering with industry personnel. If we are to make the National Development Plan, Vision 2030, a reality, which is to make Jamaica a place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business, then we have to provide the educational support that will allow our citizens to be able to provide for themselves in many ways, so that they can achieve that goal,” she said.

For his part, Vice President, Student External Relations, Niagra College and CEO, Niagara College Foundation, Sean Kennedy, said he is “most impressed with the work of the CCCJ,” noting that the role community colleges will play in fulfilling the Vision 2030 goals is critical.

“The work that community colleges do has never been more important. We are in the human development business and if we do our job right, our communities get stronger, our economy gets stronger (and) employment opportunities for our young people improve,” he argued.

Mr. Kennedy said he anticipating that the logistics management programme, in particular, will be very popular with students looking to enter “this very exciting field of management, as Jamaica becomes a global hub for shipping and logistics.”

“We at Niagra College look forward to a long term partnership in creating a logistics centre of excellence and several related educational initiatives with Excelsior and the community colleges of Jamaica,” he said.

Excelsior Community College will be the lead college in the logistics management programme, and when fully developed, the programme will be offered by all eight community colleges in the island.

The CCCJ is a statutory agency under the Ministry of Education which supervises and co-ordinates the work of community colleges in Jamaica.

Published in News
Tuesday, 30 December 2014 16:35

Four Jamaican students among CXC honourees

Four Jamaicans are among 17 secondary students from across the region who topped the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) external tests for the 2013/14 academic year.

The four are: Ricardo Nugent, William Knibb Memorial High School, Trelawny; Jozelle Dixon, Wolmer’s Girls High School, Kingston; Romario White, Campion College, St. Andrew; and Nile Anderson, Mannings School, Westmoreland.

They and their peers, drawn from other secondary institutions in Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana, were honoured for outstanding performances in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), during a recent presentation ceremony at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Regional Headquarters, at Mona, St. Andrew.

Ricardo earned the distinction of being the first Jamaican to cop the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) Award for Best Agricultural Science Student, having earned distinction in the subject at the CSEC level.

He was also adjudged to have recorded the Best Profile of Performance; Best Moderated School Based Assessment (SBA) Score; and Highest Composite Score.

Both Jozelle and Romario were awarded for their achievements in CAPE. Jozelle was adjudged to be the Most Outstanding Candidate in Humanities, having earned distinctions in seven Units. These include: Caribbean Studies, Communication Studies, Geography Units One and Two, History Units One and Two, and Sociology Unit One, in addition to Grade Two in Sociology Unit Two.

This performance earned her the CXC/Pearson Award, sponsored by Pearson Education, a United States-based entity, which provides publishing and assessment services to schools, among other entities.

Romario was deemed the Most Outstanding Candidate in Natural Sciences, earning distinctions in 10 Units, recording ‘As’ in the module grades: Biology Units One and Two, Caribbean Studies, Chemistry Units One and Two, Communication Studies, Physics Units One and Two, and Pure Mathematics Units One and Two.

Nile emerged the Most Outstanding Candidate in the Sciences in CSEC examinations, earning distinctions in 13 subjects.

These include: Additional Mathematics, Agricultural Science (SA), Biology, Chemistry, English A, Information Technology, Integrated Science, Mathematics, Office Administration, Physics, Principles of Accounts, Spanish, and Electronic Document Preparation and Management; and Grade Two in Economics, English B, and Geography.

Sushma Karim, formerly of Naparima Girls High School in Trinidad and Tobago was adjudged the Most Outstanding Overall CAPE Candidate in the Caribbean, having earned distinctions in12 Units.

This performance earned her the 2014 Dennis Irvine Award, named in honour of the late CXC Chairman, who served in that position from 1974 to 1979, and headed the organization when the examinations were first administered in 1979.

Elisa Hamilton of Queen’s College in Guyana was deemed the Most Outstanding Overall CSEC Candidate, having achieved distinction in 19 subjects, and Grade Two in one.

Other CAPE awards presented included Most Outstanding Candidate in: Technical Studies – Celeste Jaggai, Naparima Girls’ High School; Mathematics and Information and Communication Technology – Mandela Patrick, Naparima College; Modern Languages – Arifa Satnarine, St. Joseph’s Convent (San Fernando); Environmental Science – Ranissa Mathura, St. Joseph’s; and Business Studies – Sharda Goolcharan, Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College, all in Trinidad and Tobago.

The other CSEC awards included Most Outstanding Candidate in: Humanities – Aliyyah Abdul Kadir, and Business Education – Ryhan Chand, Queen’s College; and Visual Arts (Two Dimensional Work) – Shivana Sookdeo, Naparima Girls’ High School, and Three Dimensional Work – Nneka Toni Jones, Bishop Anstey High School; and Short Story Writing – Kristan Mohammed, Tunapuna Secondary High School, all in Trinidad and Tobago; and Technical/Vocational Education – Kishan Crichlow, New Amsterdam Multilateral School, Guyana.

Prizes and awards presented included University of the West Indies (UWI) scholarships, commemorative plaques, and books.

Naparima Girls’ High School copped the CAPE 2014 School of the Year Award, while Queen’s College received the CSEC equivalent.

Guest speaker, Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, commended the awardees, noting that political administrations across the Caribbean “want to see more students performing excellently.”

He also expressed great anticipation that, come 2015, more students from schools in territories other than Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana, will figure among the top CAPE and CSEC performers.

“We wish to see top performers coming from a wide variety of schools, alongside the traditional schools that excel. Our young people, if given the opportunity to excel (will) seize it; and they can meet the academic requirements of top level tertiary institutions across the globe. They can match the scholastic abilities of their counterparts anywhere,” the Minister added.

Rev. Thwaites also commended the CXC on its work over the past 40 years, noting that the regional examinations body “has a very important role to play” in furthering the Caribbean’s educational development.

In his remarks, CXC Chairman and UWI Vice Chancellor, Professor Nigel Harris, described the regional examinations body as “one of the grand accomplishments of the Caribbean,” pointing out that “the staff of CXC…have managed to accomplish tremendous things,” over the years.

The Vice Chancellor also extended commendations to the students on their achievements.

Delivering a message on behalf of Opposition Leader, Andrew Holness, Principal of Jamaica College, Senator Ruel Reid, also congratulated the students, and hailed the inputs of parents and teachers, “who have worked tirelessly with our young people to achieve so much.”

Underscoring that “to whom much is given, much is expected,” Senator Reid urged the students to “continue on the path of excellence.”

Principal of Naparima Girls’ High School, Carolyn Bally-Gosine, said the institution’s administration, staff, and students were “overjoyed and honoured” to have been bestowed with the 2014 CAPE School of the Year Award.

Mrs. Bally-Gosine, who is a past student and has been a teacher at the school since 1982, indicated that “we are proud of all our awardees…and we have enjoyed nurturing and molding them into the exemplars they have become.”

Responding on behalf of her colleagues, Celeste Jaggai said: “My fellow top awardees and I are extremely honoured and humbled. We certainly acknowledge our responsibilities as future young leaders, and aspire to the further development of the Caribbean.”

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