BACK TO SCHOOL 2021

As we begin the 2021-2022 school year, we do so with the collective knowledge that our decisions today will determine whether we remain mired in the pandemic for another school year or we begin to see our children carefree again and back in classrooms all across Jamaica. Let’s make the decision to get vaccinated today.

On Monday, September 6, all schools will begin classes using the

Online or computer-aided learning, Audio-visual (television and radio)

and the Printed Learning Packages or Kits.

For this school year, we have added audio learning apps that can be downloaded on your phones where ever you our students are located. We also launched two 24 hour television channels, one for our primary school students and the other for our secondary schools. Live and recorded lessons will be available 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Even if you only have a rabbit ear television, you can access our 24 hour television channels.

This year, we will redouble, triple, quadruple our efforts to reach our students who were unreachable last year. We must remain true to our mission of not leaving any child behind.

We start this school year with more devices in the hands of our children and teachers than at any other point in our history, significantly reducing the digital divide in the education sector. Let us leverage the technology skills that you our teachers and students would have gained during the school year recently ended to move forward confidently in this digital age. As a Government, we will continue with the many initiatives started last school year to get to our goal of a device in the hands of every student in Jamaica.

While we work to eliminate the digital divide in terms of access to devices, improved connectivity, affordable data plans, rich content to engage the absorptive capacity of our students, this school year, we are tackling the various other inequities in our education sector, the most serious being knowledge inequity, that is, the gap between those students who are high performing or high achieving and those who are not. Across our primary schools this year, we will pivot to using more specialist subject teachers with an emphasis on Mathematics and English Language, the foundation subjects. In our near future, gone will be the days of 1 teacher in a primary school classroom teaching all subjects. This is one of our flagship initiatives this school year and we expect it to significantly raise the level of Mathematics and English Language knowledge in our primary schools.

We will also begin the implementation of our 7 year high school. This will mean two (2) additional years of high school for students who complete Grade 11 and want alternative opportunities alongside the traditional sixth form CAPE curriculum. Any student who completed Grade 11 in the last academic year, and is not enrolled for the traditional CAPE curriculum is entitled to be offered admission to one of the new Sixth Form Pathway Programmes to pursue a two-year programme of study.

In our early childhood sector, assessing all our children at age 4 in the areas of general development, behaviour and early learning in literacy and numeracy will be done annually at all early childhood institutions. This will enable the practitioners in the early childhood sector to make the necessary interventions so that our students will have a higher level of readiness for primary schools.

Of course, in all of our planning, we will not lose sight of our special needs students and institutions. We will ensure we carry them along as well.

While we seek to eliminate the digital divide and reduce the knowledge inequity in the education sector, we target January 2022 to begin the implementation of Character Education in our schools to teach our students a sense of diligence, how to focus on their studies, how to strive to do well, how to interact properly with their teachers and other students in and out of the classroom. We will be teaching them about their rights and duties as citizens. What it means to be a Jamaican. We want to teach them about a culture of peace. We want to educate them on tolerance and social partnerships.

Underpinning Character Education will be the launch of a sustained multi-year Good Parenting campaign to help our parents eliminate corporal punishment of our children in the home and in public spaces. We want to significantly reduce the more than 1,200 reports per month of child abuse that come to the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA). We do this by teaching our parents Good Parenting.

Let us move forward with confidence and determination that we will overcome the present health crisis and and any other challenges to come while at the same time remaining totally committed to providing the best educational opportunities for all our children.

Thank you and May God richly bless us all.

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