Fri | Feb 3, 2023

Overhaul education ministry – Neville Ying

Published:Friday | April 1, 2022 | 12:06 AMDavid Salmon/Gleaner Writer
Professor Neville Ying
Professor Neville Ying

Restructuring the Ministry of Education and Youth is one of the many recommendations proposed by noted educator and evaluation specialist, Professor Neville Ying.

Addressing the ASI East Jamaica Chapter’s critical response to Professor Orlando Patterson’s Jamaica Education Transformation Report, Ying explained that transforming the educational sector required radical action.

“We should repurpose and streamline the Ministry of Education. The second recommendation is that we should establish an independent body to drive the education transformation, and third, we must conduct an organisational review of all the ministry’s committees, agencies, councils and regional offices,” he said during the presentation.

According to Ying, an assessment should also be established to measure the transformational impact of leaders in the ministry and in schools more broadly. He wants leaders evaluated on the metrics of strategic thinking, emotional intelligence competency, and conversational competencies.

The recently tabled Education Transformation Commission report found that of the 837 posts at the central office of the Ministry of Education and Youth, only 673 (81 per cent) of posts were filled. The report also identified that an organisational review of the ministry was desperately needed given concerns surrounding accountability.

“Given the vast budget allocated to the sector and the performance challenges, it is important that an organisational review be conducted of the central ministry and the regions at a minimum,” the report said.

“The committee also unearthed concerns regarding the cultural dynamics in the ministry as well as the accountability structures of the ministry.”

The report identified that even though the 2004 Task Force on Educational Reform outlined that the ministry’s regions should take on more operational responsibilities, this has not happened. It highlighted that very little devolution of responsibilities from the central ministry has occurred with current regions being ill-equipped to assume more responsibilities due to resource constraints.

Not only does Ying believe that a restructuring of the ministry’s 33 departments is needed, but he also believes that the governance of schools should also be examined. “I am recommending that we increase the number of regional school boards. We don’t have enough talent around to have a large number of school boards,” he said. Additionally, Ying is also suggesting that sixth forms should be replaced by strategically placed community colleges islandwide.

Key to the successful implementation of this reform programme, he identified, is transformational leadership and consistent funding. It is on that basis that he is recommending that an analysis be conducted on previous transformational initiatives done between 1954 and 2020 in order to identify what should be done differently and what funding model should be adopted.

Even though Ying agreed with the assessment that a new system was needed to evaluate schools performance, he argued that the classification of schools according to traditional and non-traditional labels should cease.

FIRST HURDLE

He told the gathering, “The first hurdle I would like for 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 across the system.”

This position differed from the approach taken by the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission who has not assessed the performance of schools using these labels, but also produced a ranking of all the 42 traditional and the top 42 non-traditional high schools in Jamaica.

Stigma surrounding technical education is another area that the educator sought to address in his remarks as he said, “The other important psychological hurdle that we need to remove is the stigma that is attached to technical and vocational education and training. We must change our mindsets and our practice that technical education and training are just for students that are good with their hands and not just their brains.”

He recommends that to remove this stigma, having excellent performance in English, mathematics and science should be implemented as a requirement for doing a technical education vocational subject. It is also being recommended that students leaving the primary school should be equipped in six basic skills: literacy, numeracy, writing, oral presentation and, most importantly, digital and science literacy.

david.salmon@gleanerjm.com