School Self-Evaluation: A Jamaican Perspective

By Smith, Maurice D. | Journal of Third World Studies, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

School Self-Evaluation: A Jamaican Perspective


Smith, Maurice D., Journal of Third World Studies


INTRODUCTION

Jamaica's education system currently caters to approximately 700,000 students in public and private institutions at the early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Some 25, 329 teachers, 20% of whom have first degrees, are employed in 1,000 public schools. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, education received 13% of the national budget after debt servicing; this amounted to over $72.6 billion. There is universal access to early childhood, primary and lower secondary levels. (1)

In an effort to respond to public outcry and address several inequities, the Ministry of Education (MoE) introduced a number of initiatives such as the Reform of Secondary Education (ROSE) and the National Assessment Program (NAP) among others. In 2004, then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson assembled a Task Force on Educational Reform (TFER) having received bi-partisan support by way of a parliamentary resolution passed in the House of Representatives. This program, deemed to be ambitious and magnanimous, sought to ensure that all schools operated effectively and so was ensconced in a contextual framework underpinned by the National Shared Vision for Education in Jamaica which articulated that:

   Each learner will maximize his/her potential in an enriching,
   learner-centered education environment with maximum use
   of learning technologies supported by committed, qualified,
   competent, effective and professional educators and staff.
   The education system will be equitable and accessible with
   full attendance to Grade 11. Accountability, transparency
   and performance are the hallmarks of a system that is
   excellent, self-sustaining and resourced and welcomes full
   stakeholder participation. The system produces full literacy
   and numeracy, a globally competitive, quality workforce and
   a disciplined, culturally aware and ethical Jamaican
   citizenry. (2)

Effective schools bring into focus learning, collaboration and accountability. A number of countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and South Africa, have introduced policy framework within which strong professional networks are created to improve school leadership. (3) The McKinsey Report authored by Barber and Mourshed, (4) a comparative analysis of successful educational reforms, recorded that successful systems of education place great emphasis on school leadership and that they create mechanisms to allow central government to improve the quality of school leaders.

Caribbean territories have moved to place an explicit focus on leadership development through entities such as the School Leadership Centre of Trinidad and Tobago (SLCTT) which provides opportunities for principals and teachers to develop the leadership skills necessary to achieve effective teaching and learning. Funded by the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago's (RBTT) Education Foundation, the SLCTT organizes training for educators and annually accesses support from selected entities in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as from local management experts. Jamaica has also sought to improve the leadership skills of its school administrators and as such the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) was established in September 2011. Prior to that, the MoE, through partners such as the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mt. St. Vincent University in Canada, teachers' colleges, the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA), and the National Council on Education (NCE), has sought to train some 731 primary and 44 secondary school principals respectively. (5) This training, however, has been entirely theoretical in its approach and has not equipped school leaders with specific competences needed for effective leadership.

School administrators should provide professional leadership and management in order for an institution to build a secure foundation on which high standards can be achieved. School leaders therefore must promote high quality education by effectively managing teaching and learning to realize the potential of all pupils. …

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