Jamaica launches special needs curriculum
After 11 years of trying, Jamaica has finally moved a step further to leaving no child behind in our schools – thanks to the launch of a new special needs curriculum.
The Curriculum for Students with Moderate to Profound Intellectual Learning Disabilities, the development of which UNICEF supported, represents a significant amount of time, effort and thought put in by educators. It’s also timely given that we’re now in Disabilities Week!
For us at UNICEF we believe that every child has a right to an education that fits his or her abilities and promotes his or her strengths, which is why we’re so pleased to have been involved in developing the curriculum over the years to ensure it’s as child-friendly as possible. It’s games-based; it’s play-based; it’s skill-based; experiential with field trips; and also has music – all built on the principal that we can develop independent learners and independent citizens who can contribute to nation-building.
Every child deserves an education that fits
Remarkably Jamaica was the first country to ratify the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in 2007. But despite that and despite progress, this curriculum is still vital because of the many challenges for this population, especially children and adolescents who suffer from social exclusion and discrimination. In many cases, they also receive an inferior quality education.
The curriculum has already been well-received in schools, such as Randolph Lopez School of Hope in Papine, St. Andrew, where it was launched. Importantly, it includes an assessment component and a number of developmental checklists to aid teachers in meeting each child where they are and working with them as individuals.
For us, we’re pleased to be getting more proactively involved in preventing the exclusion of Jamaican children whether at home, at school or in society. More recently we’ve been getting more active as it relates to disabilities – and there is much work to be done!
Promoting inclusion across Jamaica
We have an active partnership with Digicel Foundation and the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), helping to get more children registered to access state benefits; and also helping Special Olympics Jamaica to expand across the island with healthy athlete screenings and the promotion of unified sports.
Back to education, and this curriculum of course, is that we’re also working with the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) and the Heart Trust NTA training teachers to work more effectively in mixed ability classrooms.
“Our teachers will definitely be in a better place and it will make teaching easier now that we have this curriculum to guide us. What makes it even better is that it is student-centred so we focus not on the whole class but individuals. It was hard work helping to develop the curriculum but for also fun for the teachers to test out in the classroom what they have learned. The children have responded well!” says Sylvestina Reid, Principal of Randolph Lopez.