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New curriculum for intellectually challenged students

Sunday, June 03, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has developed a new curriculum for students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities.

The document, which replaces the curriculum that was developed by the Jamaica Association on Intellectual Disabilities (JAID), focuses on five main areas: life skills, functional mathematics, language and communication, science, and physical education.

As with the National Standard Curriculum (NSC), information technology and the arts function as the principal drivers.

The new curriculum also comprises a variety of pre-screening and assessment tools to assist teachers in customizing the content for their students by using data to determine instructional goals.

It is, therefore, not arranged by grade levels, but allows teachers to select content based on the learners’ needs, and established learning goals.

Assistant Chief Education Officer in charge of the Ministry’s Special Unit, Dr Sharon Anderson-Morgan, said that the curriculum will enable students to advance at their own pace, while facilitating the development of a high level of daily living and functional academic and practical skills within the parameters of the youngsters’ capabilities.

She said while the curriculum is aligned with selected content areas and themes in the NSC, it emphasizes functional academics through a life skills-based approach. Anderson-Morgan explained that this helps students with limitations in cognition and adaptive skills to develop competencies for community integration and independent living. The curriculum is available to all schools with students who can benefit from the methodology. However it is currently widely used in segregated special education institutions catering to students with intellectual disabilities.

According to Anderson-Morgan, data from the first phase of the curriculum monitoring activity indicated that: teachers found the curriculum easy to use; the curriculum significantly supports lesson planning; the assessment activities are very useful in determining students’ competence; and the curriculum supports individual instruction. The curriculum, which was implemented in schools in September 2016 and officially launched in November 2017, was developed in collaboration with the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) and other stakeholders.

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