Early Childhood Education: “You Have to Get It Right From the Start”

August 31st, 2016

The Auditorium at Jamaica College was overflowing. People spilled outside, meeting up and chatting in the warm sunlight on the neat and tidy “JC” grounds. Inside was simply packed, filled with chairs. Every seat was taken as teachers, administrators and parents awaited the official launch of the Early Childhood Certification Fair, organized by the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) – an agency of the Ministry of Education established in 2003.


Now, things have slowed down quite a bit in this area, with only a fraction of these educational institutions that cater for our youngest citizens certified to date. In fact, 17 early childhood institutions were just certified in an official ceremony in July. Education Minister Ruel Reid says the ECC is targeting another 150 or so schools, which have reached 50 – 95 per cent of the standards, to bring them up to scratch. The new ECC Chair, Trisha Williams-Singh said she would like to have 100 schools fully certified by next year. Williams-Singh and Executive Director Dr. Joan Reid, with the assistance of the vastly experienced Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, are seeking to put the sector back on the front burner. Over 2,500 basic and infant schools and kindergartens across the island are seeking certification, so these women have quite a task in front of them.

A performance by Crayon College One had everyone saying "Awww. Cute!" And so they were. (My photo)

A performance by Crayon College One had everyone saying “Awww. Cute!” And so they were. (My photo)

For a start, the ECC is on an island wide campaign to raise awareness of the Twelve Standards for certification. The recent meeting in Kingston was the start of the journey. As the Principal of the Glendevon Primary and Infant School in St. James (one of the 17 recently certified) noted, it requires a concerted effort by all stakeholders to make certification happen. The Twelve Standards are detailed and exacting, and every one has to be adhered to for certification to take place. This means that the ECC inspectors have to work hard to keep everyone on their toes.

Professor Samms-Vaughan provided important information. (My photo)

Professor Samms-Vaughan provided important information. (My photo)

At the Certification Fair, Professor Samms-Vaughan took us through each one of the standards, which were carefully adapted for Jamaica from international guidelines. A booth was set up at the fair for each one of the standards, with information and materials for those who attended – from every parish in the island. The “thirteenth standard,” Professor Samms-Vaughan noted, was to engage with the parents. They have a responsibility, too.

The sector could not have reached as far as it has without the support of the private sector. Digicel Foundation’s Krystal Tomlinson brought greetings and noted the Foundation’s support for Lake’s Pen Basic School in St. Catherine. The National Baking Company has also provided tremendous support, to the tune of $250 million, through the Crayons Count Initiative, the Little Leaders project and support for Talk Up Yout’ (Emprezz “My People” Golding of Talk Up was the brilliant MC for the launch ceremony). Mr. Gary “Butch” Hendrickson believes in “giving back” to Jamaican society. UNICEF Jamaica is also extremely supportive of the ECC’s efforts.

State Minister for Youth (who always looks very youthful to me, himself) Floyd Green hit the nail on the head when he said: “You have to get it right from the start.” Those early years are critical, as they shape the person who has to work his/her way through the educational system – and through life. Emprezz Golding referred to the challenging home backgrounds that many small children come from, adding another key point: “Get the environment right, get your attitude right. A teacher may be the only person to offer the child a smile or a word of encouragement for the day.”

In other words…


If you want to know more about early childhood institutions (would you like to help support your local basic school, perhaps?) contact the Early Childhood Commission at Shop 45-49, Kingston Mall, 8-10 Ocean Boulevard, Kingston.
Tel: 922 9296-7  Email: 
info@ecc.gov.jm There are also regional Early Childhood Resource Centres listed on the ECC website at ecc.gov.jm.  You can also follow the ECC on Twitter @ECCJA ; on Instagram (earlychildhoodcommission);  and on Facebook (The Early Childhood Commission). Get involved!


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