STATHS infuses child-friendly school approach in learning, teaching

Sunday, October 13, 2019

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It was Hilary Clinton who posited that “music education can help spark a child's imagination or ignite a lifetime of passion. When you provide a child with new worlds to explore and challenges to tackle, the possibilities are endless. Music education should not be a privilege for a lucky few, it should be a part of every child's world of possibility.”

For the leadership of the St Andrew Technical High School (STATHS) this holds true and brings into sharp focus their objective of implementing practical, innovative and child-friendly educational programmes to serve the needs of students in their care.

Principal of STATHS, Worrell Hibbert, has expressed appreciation to the National College of Educational Leadership (NCEL) and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) for selecting the school's music programme and other Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) practices as a feature of the online course entitled 'Leading Child-Friendly Schools-The Global and Jamaican Contexts'.

He noted that the school was established in 1961 to ensure the development of its learners and so has adopted the learner-centred pedagogical approaches in order to fulfil this objective.

“Every year, students come to us on different levels — different abilities in writing, speaking and reading,” Hibbert said while noting that it is the school's responsibility to modify its curricula provisions to suit their varying needs. He added that the school understands the importance of the students' voice and so designs its programmes and interventions by incorporating the desired goals of each child.

“Students are given a personal assessment and they tell us what they want to become. We have also used the information they give to us to create different pathways for them so that they can chart their own way of learning, whilst ensuring their own academic development,” he said.

Speaking directly to the establishment of a music studio and its infusion in the curriculum, Hibbert said that it solidifies the school's commitment to fulfilling the educational needs of its students. For him, the studio provides the opportunity for students who are not so articulate and excellent in literacy and numeracy to explore and strengthen their interest in music. It builds the students' ability to express one's self. Additionally, he advised that students are taught the importance of music to the Jamaican culture and are encouraged, through the music education curriculum to explore all the career paths in the industry; for example, entertainer, producer, event planner, manager, and writer.

Cultural agent and head of the Visual and Performing Arts Departments of the school, Ann-Marie Cephas, said the music education programme forms part of efforts by the department to boost students' critical-thinking skills, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-discipline. For her, the driver of the National Standards Curriculum is the arts. Research has shown that arts can be used and included in other subject areas, and can be used to improve learning and students' performance in other subjects. Pointing to the data, she noted that students who are exposed to the programme have shown vast improvements, which is evidenced by improved performance in all their subject areas.

Importantly, Cephas added that it is an alternative pathway that has been integrated in the curriculum and that it was designed to help students to improve in lessons. This, she said, allows teachers to create different strategies for learning and assessment and ultimately promotes the inculcation of differentiation. It is not subjected to language and literature in terms of lyrical composition, but is used right across all subject areas.

The visual and performing arts head reiterated that the constructivist approach to learning is utilised where the five E's- Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate — are incorporated. With that students are allowed to build on prior learning and experiences, whilst exploring and utilising inquiry to promote new patterns of thinking. She then added that the programme helps students to be better communicators and negotiators; and learn how to collaborate well with their peers. Additionally, she noted that they develop refusal skills.

Cephas also pointed out that the students in the programme are allowed to set their own goals and are required to compose weekly journal entries that helps with their expression and allows for freedom of speech.

Of importance also is the fact that STATHS has been actively engaged in building and implementing a myriad of programmes to enhance students' creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial skills. The school is a STEM Academy which offers specific programmes in collaboration with the Kingston Wharves and also gives students exposure to apiculture, robotics, AC repairs, AutoCAD, industrial electronics, art, dance, drama and theatre arts.

As a result of the partnership between the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information/NCEL and UNICEF, 10 schools who have been actively implementing CFS approaches were selected and digital footage captured for inclusion in the content for the online course named above. The St Andrew Technical was one of those schools. Additionally, the school's principal is one of 40 school administrators who will participate in the course that will be launched soon and that which will essentially equip school leaders with the knowledge, skills and competencies to promote the planning and implementation of CFS practices in their schools.

STATHS has a student population of approximately 1,500 with 150 teaching and support staff. Guided by its mission, the school's administration remains committed to providing an all-around education for the development of the total child. This, of course, is in keeping with the Child-Friendly Schools model as articulated by the UNICEF and supported by the Conventions on the Rights of the Child of which Jamaica is a signatory.

Submitted by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information


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