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Pursuing Excellence: Innovative Maths and English Programmes in Manchester


Nov 17, 2014


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Pursuing Excellence: Innovative Maths and English Programmes in Manchester

By: Althea | The University of West the Indies

November 17, 2014

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — For the last two summers, selected students from May Day High School and Mile Gully High have been engaged in a five-week “boot camp” to improve performances in mathematics and English.

In 2015 and 2016, the summer break will be similarly spent.

The over 60 students from both schools combined are reportedly the first cohort of an “innovative” and “intense” four-year educational programme through the non-profit group TEACH Caribbean, which seeks to expose students to diverse teaching methods and improve passes at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level.

“While student performance in Math and English is slowly improving across the island, the percentage of students passing standardised exams in these subjects continues to be low year after year,” explained TEACH Caribbean Executive Director Wynette Miller.

The brainchild of 1998 Jamaica Rhodes Scholar Mariame McIntosh Robinson, the programme targets rural youth in under-resourced schools.

Miller said that the intent is for the programme to be effective but not feel like just “more school” for the students during the summer.

As such, fun techniques, including musical chairs, treasure hunt, debates and competitions are incorporated to make the lessons memorable as focus is placed on weak areas.

A cooked meal for students at no cost to parents and assistance for transportation is provided for the duration, said Miller.

The TEACH Caribbean programme initially began as a pilot project between 2006 and 2008 at May Day in central Manchester and Mile Gully High in the parish’s north-west before it was established in its current phase in 2013.

To date, Rhodes Scholars from Jamaica, New Zealand and Botswana who worked along with classroom teachers in Jamaica have been involved in the programme.

Miller said that the Teach Caribbean initiative, which costs approximately $1.7 million to get all that is required in place for each summer, is endorsed by the Ministry of Education and funded by interested people in the diaspora, the GraceKennedy Foundation, American Friends of Jamaica and Central Manchester member of parliament Peter Bunting.

The student participants start the programme the summer after Grade 7 and are expected to continue until the end of grade 10.

In assessing the progress of the first cohort of students over the past two years, Miller described the results as “solid”.

She said that an evaluation of the programme after the four years will guide the process going forward.

Development officer at Bunting’s Central Manchester constituency office, Trishanna Archer, lauded the programme following a recent handover of funds to TEACH Caribbean on behalf of the MP, who is also minister of national security.

She told the Jamaica Observer Central that the decision of the schools and TEACH Caribbean administrators to select students who have shown potential academically and do not have disciplinary problems is a way to “award” excellence and motivate other students to do well.

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