JTA President in Los Angeles reaching out to West Coast Tertiary Institutions

We have a deficit in science education in Jamaica, and so it was a perfect match. And so, via continuous dialogue, we would take four or five [Jamaican] practitioners to LA, to Loma Linda, so they could engage in that program. They are engaging in that program with several people in the US and the Caribbean territories, and it’s going really well.

2014_0626_mark_nicely2_600x300 Mark Nicely, president of the Jamaican Teachers Association, JTA, a union teachers association. Replicated throughout the Caribbean. The union in Jamaica would be one of the most potent in the Caribbean region and is highly respected globally. Mr. Nicely takes time out to give CaribPress an exclusive interview. www.pass4suresale.com What is this team of educators doing in LA? What is your mission here? “Like every country, we have a Diaspora. Our Diaspora is spread across the U.S., and they have an interest in impacting Jamaica, and in particular, education in Jamaica. And so Leo Gilling, one of the coordinators, reached out to the Jamaican Teachers Association. We came up here, myself and the secretary general. I am the political head of the organization, the secretary general is the administrative head. We came up here and we visited some tertiary institutions, including Loma Linda University, and what we were doing was seeking out opportunities for our teachers in Jamaica to advance their personal and professional competences.

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And Loma Linda has an exceed program, which focuses on science education. We have a deficit in science education in Jamaica, and so it was a perfect match. And so, via continuous dialogue, we would take four or five [Jamaican] practitioners to LA, to Loma Linda, so they could engage in that program. They are engaging in that program with several people in the US and the Caribbean territories, and it’s going really well. Hopefully, they are going to engage in a lot of networking, and then they’re going to come back and tailor-make a program for Jamaica. We do understand that, while [Americans] have the best practices globally, there are peculiar circumstances here that would not fit in Jamaica. And then, in the end, we are hoping to have a team from Loma Linda come over and offer the program. What are some of the benefits of using technology to teach students? For one, it’s the whole use and manipulation of the technology. Secondly, we don’t have too much money for books and the cost of books. So [iPads are] a medium through which students can access books with reduced cost. And also, the Internet has a wealth of information that they can access. So it allows for less ‘talk and chalk,’ which is what we call when the teacher acts like they are the reservoir of knowledge, and they are filling you up with knowledge as a student, and then all you need to be able to do is to reproduce that at an exam sitting. Because that does not enable our people to think and engage in critical thinking, so this is where the technology comes in, so that you can take two different positions and argue it, and still get a good mark. In your vision statement, you say you want to aid national development through education. Is this part of that? Do you hope that this step in the educational process could aid the country as a whole? The program is very much in sync with what is going on in Jamaica. It is endorsed by the Minister of Education. I think we are moving in one direction – this can only serve to advance science education in Jamaica. Western Union hosted a special workshop for approx. 160 teachers in April 2014 on improving techniques for teaching of reading at primary school levels. What was the success of these workshops? They have been extremely successful. The JTA participate, we know that the reading level will improve in Jamaica over time. While we are not where we want to be, this program is extremely welcomed from our standpoint. Those workshops are the newest element under the I-PLEDGE program. Last year the I-PLEDGE program focused on identifying children with learning disabilities and actions teachers could take to help. What’s the focus for 2014? I think this year is a continuation. We go into the schools, we read with the students, we spend time with them, and it helps them. We have heard that reading to children will help improve their own reading abilities. Jamaica is expecting to achieve the target of 85% mastery in literacy among grade four students by 2015. What’s the present literacy rate? I don’t know the literacy rate, but we are on the right path. Political officials have indicated we’re not moving as quickly as they would like and we, certainly, would like, so it appears we have to improve our pace. We are putting in more and more initiatives. The government is getting more involved in childhood education, and they are gradually, incrementally putting more professionals in that area. There is a kind of imbalance where the secondary level and the primary level, they all have trained teachers, but the childhood level does not have all trained teachers. And of course, this represents the foundation of the education system. That is where we may have made an error, and gradually we are trying to correct that and simultaneously to recalibrate and reposition ourselves. Girls are excelling academically and outdoing the boys in school. Why do you think that is, and what is being done to balance it? In our society, the men are macho and have other options. We are big on reggae music, so many of our boys see themselves as budding superstars in the era of reggae. They have a sort of mentality that they must be revered and so forth, and many of them don’t have the discipline to settle down to school. Sometimes jobs are not very attractive, because of the salary, and they think there is an easier way out or a quick way out. So many of our boys, more so than the girls, look for a quick fix. The girls are more disciplined, they attend school more regularly, and so on. And in the classroom, I think teachers are 90 percent female, so we are trying to come up with creative ways to get males in the classroom. But men still hold the top positions in the country, so it’s a dilemma. It’s something that we have to work collectively towards resolving. We have to teach out boys differently because they learn differently from girls, and so we need a mental restructuring of many of our citizens of how we go about treating males versus males. With more access to computers and the Internet, do you know if Jamaican youth are visiting the libraries? Technology is what I refer to as ‘the new literacy’. What we’ve found is that some people have access and some do not. We need to move rapidly to ensure equality so all our children have access to technology. And then there comes the fact of monitoring the technology. We are finding that some of our students are engaging in activities that are not wholesome, for want of a better term. It’s placing an additional burden on getting the academic side across to them. So now we have to focus on improved maturity among our students, giving them the ability to discern what is useful for them and what is not. We will have to engage in more monitoring. Yes, there are libraries, but a lot of our students have to do all their work at home. So it’s twofold: We have to look at communities, and access in communities, and schools in those communities. And then once we have that access, how do we monitor that and direct the child in the most appropriate way? Because the same technology that can advance the goals and objectives of our country can simultaneously delay them, so management is going to be critical. 1Z0-053

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