WITH 3,500 new students set to enrol in the Alternative Secondary Transitional Education Programme (ASTEP) this academic year, the Ministry of Education is to invest $180 million into the initiative.
There are currently 4,452 students in the programme, which was started last September to help non-literate students who have passed the age for primary school.
In July this year, the ministry tested the students in the two-year programme "to provide a national measure on the students' performance and to inform instructions for the second year of the programme", said acting Permanent Secretary Grace McLean, in a written response to Career & Education queries.
Transition for those students, she said, will begin at the end of this year. Precisely how that will be done is unclear. However, McLean said that "a special programme is currently being designed for those who may not transition".
Meanwhile, 271 people have been contracted to work in the programme this school year, including, McLean said, "centre co-ordinators, guidance counsellors and specialists".
There is, she said, currently a ratio of one teacher to 20 students — who range in age from 12 to 13 years — in the programme.
But with the more than 3,000 additional students set to join ASTEP, McLean said more teachers will be made to serve programme.
"[They] will be taken from the present cohort of teachers, especially those in schools that have reduced enrolment and are under-utilised," she said.
A number of new centres are also to form a part of the programme, which currently has a complement of 224 such facilities. However, they are to be given no additional equipment.
"The centres were equipped with the necessary resources throughout last school year and these will be used in the coming year," McLean noted.
The results of the exams sat by the existing cohort of students have not been released.