Record number of students enrolled in sixth form
Sixth form students from Meadowbrook High, Merl Grove High St Hugh's High. Holy Childhood High and Calabar High at a recent Sixth Form Association interclubbing meeting at Calabar.

OVER 20,000 students are now enrolled in the Sixth Form Pathways Programme, which Education Minister Fayval Williams says is unprecedented and signals that students are making a deliberate choice to remain in school.

"[This number of] students in our Sixth Form Pathways Programme is historic. It has never happened in Jamaica before. Our students are choosing education and they are to be commended," Minister Williams said in a statement to Parliament on Wednesday disclosing that a total of 24, 238 students were enrolled in sixth form programmes islandwide.

She noted that approximately 35,000 students graduate from fifth form annually, "so to have 24,000 children moving on to grade 12 is significant".

"When we only had the traditional CAPE [Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination] programme, only about 8,000 children go towards that and others had to find other things if they could find it," she said.

Williams added that the enrolled students are participating in the three 'pathways' under the programme in grades 12 and 13 within 167 secondary schools and 42 tertiary/post-secondary institutions across all seven education regions.

According to the education ministry, students who are pursuing CAPE are in Pathway I, while those who will participate in technical and vocational courses are in Pathway II. Pathway III facilitates students who do not have passes in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and will be able to resit subjects or acquire certificates.

Williams said the Sixth Form Pathways or seven-year high school programme which was formally launched in September 2020, after the pilot in 2019, ensures students have National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica certification, as well as employability skills and personal and professional development along with career guidance.

"The beauty of these many pathways is that a student coming in on Pathway III can aspire to be in Pathway I, which is the traditional CAPE Pathway. Before now, the traditional CAPE Pathway may not have even been a thought," she said.

In the meantime, Williams said she made note that more students are now on Pathway I than ever before. Though she could not explain why this is the case at the moment, as she is in the process of garnering the answer, she speculated that "maybe it's the additional support that the Government is providing that's allowing more parents being able to afford the traditional pathway".

Williams noted that this fiscal year, the Government is investing approximately $1.5 billion for grants for operations, staffing, materials among other things in secondary schools to include exam subsidy for the Sixth Form Pathways Programme. She added that while the Government provides the tuition for Pathways II and III, schools have the leeway to charge for their services under Pathway I.

She said the Government is expecting the Sixth Form Pathways Programme to deliver increased certification of students; higher skilled human capital coming out of schools; increase entrepreneurship and business development; better interpersonal and problem-solving skills; better communication skills; better conflict resolution; and higher order critical thinking.

"The Sixth Form Pathways Programme brings hope to many of our students who would have graduated from grade 11 with reduced opportunities. Our Sixth Form Pathways Programme is a paradigm shift for the education sector and the development of human capital in Jamaica. We are changing the course of history," she said.

BY ALECIA SMITH Senior staff reporter smitha@jamaicaobserver.com

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