Restructuring the Department of Education and Youth is one of many recommendations put forward by renowned educator and assessment specialist, Professor Neville Ying.
Addressing the ASI East Jamaica Chapter’s critical response to Professor Orlando Patterson’s report on the transformation of education in Jamaica, Ying explained that transforming the education sector required radical action.
“We should reorient and streamline the Ministry of Education. The second recommendation is that we should establish an independent body to drive education transformation, and thirdly, we must conduct an organizational review of all committees, agencies, councils and regional offices of the ministry,” he said. declared during the presentation.
According to Ying, an evaluation should also be established to measure the transformational impact of leaders in the ministry and in schools more broadly. He wants leaders to be assessed on the metrics of strategic thinking, emotional intelligence proficiency, and conversational skills.
The recently filed Education Transformation Commission report revealed that of the 837 positions at the central office of the Ministry of Education and Youth, only 673 (81%) of the positions were filled. The report also identified that an organizational review of the ministry was desperately needed given concerns around accountability.
“Given the huge budget allocated to the sector and the performance challenges, it is important that an organizational review be carried out at the central ministry and regional levels at a minimum,” the report said.
“The committee also uncovered concerns about the cultural dynamics within the ministry as well as the ministry’s accountability structures.”
The report identified that although the 2004 Education Reform Task Force emphasized that the regions of the ministry should assume more operational responsibilities, this has not happened. He pointed out that very little devolution of responsibilities from the central ministry has occurred, with current regions ill-equipped to take on more responsibilities due to resource constraints.
Not only does Ying think a restructuring of the ministry’s 33 departments is necessary, but he also thinks the governance of schools should also be reviewed. “I recommend increasing the number of regional school boards. We don’t have enough talent to have a lot of school boards,” he said. Additionally, Ying also suggests that the Sixth Form be replaced with community colleges strategically placed throughout the island.
Key to the successful implementation of this reform agenda, he identified, is transformational leadership and consistent funding. It is on this basis that he recommends that an analysis be conducted on previous transformation initiatives carried out between 1954 and 2020 to identify what should be done differently and what funding model should be adopted.
Although Ying agreed with the assessment that a new system was needed to assess school performance, he argued that the classification of schools according to traditional and non-traditional labels should end.
He told the rally: “The first barrier I would like us to remove is the classification of our schools as traditional and non-traditional. These terminologies are nomenclature. What they do is create feelings of inferiority and superiority throughout the system.
This position differed from the approach taken by the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission which did not assess the performance of schools using these labels, but also produced a ranking of all 42 traditional secondary schools and 42 Jamaica’s best non-traditional secondary schools.
Stigma surrounding technical education is another area the educator sought to address in his remarks saying, “The other significant psychological barrier that we need to remove is the stigma that is attached to teaching and training. technical and professional. We need to change our mindsets and our practice that technical education and training is for students who are good with their hands and not just their brains.
It recommends that to eliminate this stigma, having excellent performance in English, maths and science be put in place as a requirement for taking a vocational subject in technical education. It is also recommended that pupils leaving primary school be equipped with six basic skills: literacy, numeracy, writing, oral presentation and, above all, digital and scientific literacy.