Ministry of Education
Modernisation of the Ministry of Education
Why modernise the Ministry of Education?
In February 2004, the Most Honourable P.J. Patterson, then Prime Minister of Jamaica, appointed a 14- member Task Force on Educational Reform to prepare and present an action plan consistent with a vision for the creation of a world-class education system which will generate the human capital and produce the skills necessary for Jamaicans to compete in the global economy.
The provision of quality primary and secondary education is a national development imperative. In recent years there has been a decline in the consistency of the quality of education provided across the island, and the proficiency of school leavers to adequately assimilate into the work world and the wider society. This has placed the country at a disadvantage in its efforts at economic and social development and regional and international competitiveness.
The Task Force made a number of recommendations with the goal of transforming the entire education system over a period of approximately ten (10) to fifteen (15) years. Some of the key recommendations to be pursued within the short to medium term are:
- the Modernisation of the Ministry of Education to a Policy Ministry;
- upgrading of Curriculum Teaching and Learning Support Systems with particular focus on Literacy and Numeracy;
- exposing school boards and principals to new concepts of governance with emphasis on leadership and administration; and
- building community participation and ownership of schools to influence positive behavioural changes and stimulate a higher level of involvement.
Following the 2004 recommendations of the Task Force for Educational Reform, the PSMD placed the transformation of the Ministry of Education at the top of the reform agenda. After establishing the Education Transformation Team, focus was given to restructuring the Ministry into a policy-focussed ministry and the regionalisation of its operations, placing responsibility for management of educational institutions at the level of school leaders and managers and providing the management systems to hold them accountable for student achievement.
What has been done so far?
The Education Transformation Team (ETT) was established in March 2005, to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Education Reform.
In February 2006 a Strategic Review of the Ministry was conducted to obtain an in-depth analysis of the systemic requirements of the modernised Ministry of Education and operationalisation of the recommendations of the National Task Force on Education (NTFE).
Between July 2006 and February 2008, modernisation plans were developed for the central ministry and a framework established for the decentralisation of functions across the Education Sector.
The framework that has been developed for decentralisation of the Ministry entails the establishment of 5 Regional Education Agencies, transitioning from 6 regional offices, and for the establishment of the 3 National Education Agencies. These include:
- The National Education Inspectorate
- The Curriculum and Assessment Agency (CAA)
- The Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC)
Devolution means greater autonomy for decision-making. Decisions will be made closer to the point of service delivery supported by a strong accountability framework. Based on international experience, indications are that placing more decision making authority at the local level will lead to higher levels of motivation among school staff and students, increased community involvement and significant improvements in standards and quality of performance.
Improvements in school management based on the planned changes to the governance arrangements at the school, local and national levels, will provide the basis for increasing the use of data and evidence in policy and decision making and institutionalising performance planning, target setting and evaluation. The role of education officers throughout the education regions will be transformed to focus more on performance monitoring, the provision of expert support to schools, and overall challenging schools to high levels of performance.
The National Task Force on Education recommended in its 2004 report that regional education authorities should be created to ‘act as semi-autonomous agencies under the Ministry’s portfolio to monitor school performance and to provide specialist support to schools.’
The Ministry of Education currently has six (6) regional offices. These regional offices are an integral part of the Ministry and were originally created to transfer some of the central administrative functions of the Ministry to a more local level as a means of enhancing operational efficiency.
Under the modernisation five (5) new regions will be established for the education sector managed by the new transitioning operations from the current six (6) regional offices. The REAs will have substantially greater delegated authority and autonomy, the details of which are set out in the Schemes of Management (SOM).
The REAs are therefore being established to be accountable for the efficient delivery of education services thereby bringing the delivery of national education policies closer to all those involved in education, making the educational system, more responsive to the needs of its users, and increasing the role of local stakeholders in decision making and accountability mechanisms; and relieving the central ministry of operational functions within the education system.
The new REAs will bring decision making, monitoring and support closer to schools and communities. There will be a much stronger focus on school improvement, providing more comprehensive curriculum and specialist support, and on bringing greater synergy to multi agency support for children and families.
Expected role of the new National Education Agencies:
- The National Education Inspectorate
- This will be an independent body accountable to the Minister, responsible for the inspection of schools and regional operations and providing evaluation and high quality advice for decision making by the Ministry, Cabinet and Parliament.
- The Curriculum and Assessment Agency
- This agency will be responsible for providing strategic curriculum leadership, ensuring synergy between curriculum and assessment and reviewing and updating the national curriculum framework. They will commission research and set out curriculum and assessment guidance.
- The Jamaica Teaching Council
- The establishment of the Council will raise the status and profile of the teaching profession and ensure the provision of professional leadership for teachers. It will be responsible for maintaining and enhancing professional standards, regulating, registering and licensing teaching professionals. It will provide strategic direction and advice on training, teacher supply and distribution, quality assure teacher education and review and oversee conditions of service for teachers.