Local education institutions are now seeking the help of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica in improving the performance of students leaving the primary and tertiary education level.

Last year, the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) launched an education leadership partnership programme – iLead – with the Ministry of Education to target 15 of the country’s weakest performing primary and secondary schools.

Since then, JNBS has committed roughly $160 million in assisting schools in need of immediate support in the parishes of Portland, St Mary and St Thomas. While the new initiative has improved the education level of roughly 1.6 per cent of the country’s primary and secondary schools, JNBS along with the participants of the programme are now hoping that other private organisations will come onboard to support a larger of individuals.

“While its a drop in the bucket, I think it’s 15 schools less than what the number was. The ripple effect that needs to happen is that rather than a loud outcry when the rankings are published with comments that the schools are under performing, put your money where our mouth is,” principal of Robert Lightbourne High School which is a beneficiary of the iLead programme, Alfred Thomas told editors and reporters at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

“Some of these corporate companies need to come on board just like JN is doing and assist. The Ministry of Education has all the information as to the schools that are in need of immediate attention and the reality is that the Ministry does not have all the resources so the schools are having a serious struggle.”

“We are fortunate to be on this programme and we have gotten assistance but we still need a lot more. So can you imagine the schools that don’t have the assistance, we need more support. I’m sure there is a corporate company changing out computers for their staff and we would gladly take those computers because we are badly in need of that kind of equipment,” Thomas added.

Also speaking at the Monday Exchange, director for education programmes at JN Foundation, Renee Rattray told the Business Observer that the shift in monitoring of performance in the education sector started through the introduction of the National Education Inspectorate (NEI).

In 2010, the NEI completed its first round of inspections on 30 public schools at the primary and secondary level. The initiative focused on eight key indicators of school effectiveness including leadership and management, teaching and learning, students’ performance in regional and national examinations, safety, security and well-being; among others.

By highlighting the strengths and weakness of the approaches and practices of the schools, valuable feedback and lessons are encapsulated in comprehensive report which ultimately determined the schools which were lagging behind.

“That started the discussion some years ago because every school is being judged at the same standard and it was now shining light on the schools and on our educators. And so I believe that was a major shift in our thinking about holding ourselves responsible as educators for the outcomes of our students,” Rattray stated.

iLead is a three-year programme which initially targeted five schools including Robert Lightbourne High, Islington High, Brimmer Vale High, Port Maria Primary and Buff Bay Primary in the first year of operation. St Thomas Technical, Happy Grove High, Martin Primary, Windsor Castle Primary and Retreat Primary and Junior High will be added to the programme in September.

“We are really excited to have St Thomas Technical on the programme and it’s new for us because they are a vocational school,” Rattray stated.

“I’m really interested in seeing how differently they operate after the programme and I think the private sector has to take keen interest in this one because that’s where the skills are coming from and as a technical school, when you go into the labs St Thomas Technical has almost nothing,” she added.



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