The National Education Inspectorate (NEI) has implemented several strategies to ensure that the inspection of schools to assess the quality of learning and the provision for learning in Jamaica’s schools continue.
This was stated by chief executive officer and chief inspector of the NEI, Maureen Dwyer.
“We are concerned about accountability, about excellence and the extent to which the educational policies are meeting the needs of all the learners, both at the primary and the secondary levels, especially during the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.
The NEI has developed a protocol which reflects the new standard operating procedures during the period of the pandemic.
According to Dwyer, when COVID-19 came along and forced schools into the virtual space, with limited face-to-face interaction or blended modalities to teaching and learning, the NEI had to modify its approach to the inspection process. She, however, pointed out that as part of this approach, the inspectorate undertook research that involved several jurisdictions outside of Jamaica.
“We made contact with schools in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, the Cayman Islands and Malta, whom we invited to our Zoom meetings. We dialogued to see what they were doing. Like us, they were looking at gaps in their system, since they have similar settings as ours,” said Dwyer.
Local key stakeholders were engaged as part of the NEI’s effort to get a deeper understanding of what is happening on the ground and to ensure that everyone is part of the process to get the framework to a place to adapt to the changes.
Dwyer says principals from several schools across different socioeconomic spaces shared their experiences with the pandemic and what this means for schooling, for them, their students and teachers.
“Because we did not want to narrow the experience of what is happening, we also surveyed several teachers, who told us of their experiences as teachers and also as parents managing a classroom from their home while they are managing their own children who were learning. The chief education officer was also involved, but most importantly we spoke to a range of students from across the spectrum. At the end of the day when we finished conducting local-level research, we had a good sense of what was operating in the educational landscape,” she said.
Dwyer discloses that 90 schools are scheduled to be inspected by the end of the 2020/2021 financial year. To date, 12 have been inspected since the reopening of schools in the virtual space.
“There is no draconian or top-down approach to enforcement, but rather a big learning exercise where we look for the gaps and see how we can best support the education system. As an entity, we are concerned with schools improvement, excellence and the maintenance of quality in the system… quality does matter in a time of COVID-19,” she emphasised.
A quality assurance entity, the mandate of the NEI is to assess the standards attained by students within the education system; report on the standards; and make recommendations to inform improvement in outcomes and quality of provisions.