Career & Education

British Council, VM Foundation partner on $85-m high school programme

BY KIMONE THOMPSON
Associate editor — Features
thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 18, 2018

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Two non-governmental/charitable organisations that operate locally will spend 480,000 — equivalent to some $85 million — over the next three years training high school students to develop and run their own social enterprises.

The project, called Social Enterprise in Secondary Schools, is the brainchild of the British Council, the UK's international NGO for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It is partnering with Victoria Mutual Foundation, the Ministry of Education, and UK consultancy Real Ideas in the effort.

Programme manager for social enterprise and youth engagement at British Council Damion Campbell explained that the programme was designed to bridge the skills gap among school leavers, while providing solutions to varying social problems in the local community.

Preliminary training of six master trainers and 48 high school teachers according to a set of materials developed by Real Ideas started last week Monday. The teachers are expected to transfer the learning to their students through tools such as field trips and various activities related to identifying social need sin their communities and setting up relevant businesses. The training will also focus on transferring the six core or deep learning skills identified by the British Council as crucial to employability.

Six schools — representing 1,800 students — have already been selected for the first year of the programme. The second year is expected to reach 4,000 students from 14 schools, and year three is expected to involve 10,000 students from over 30 schools. The total expected reach over the three years is nearly 16,000 students from grades seven to nine and 272 teachers from 50 schools.

“[It's an] opportunity to gain the 21st century skills needed to excel in an interconnected world,” British Council country manager Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick said of the programme.

“Social enterprise is important to Jamaica because it can help students develop their core job-readiness skills and assist them in the transition from school into the workplace. But it is also a vehicle for developing and honing citizenship skills in our young people,” Jacobs-Bonnick said at the programme launch at Jamaica Pegasus in Kingston last week.

“In the UK social entreprise contributed 22 billion pounds to the economy over the previous five years, and it has made a great contribution to the growth, development and social usefulness of learners,” she added.

As British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad sees it, the social enterprise activities will prepare students for the reality that the world of employment, where workers previously stayed in the same job until retirement, is rapidly changing.

“This is my third job, and I suspect that many people in this room will have up to 10 jobs by the time they retire,” the ambassador said.

Real Ideas' Lindsey Hall made the point that in addition to financial gain, the presence of social enterprises in schools can have profound, tangible benefits for students and the school community, including increased attendance and improved achievement and behaviour.

For its part, VM Foundation, through its chairman Courtney Campbell said the Social Enterprise in Secondary Schools programme was the first major project for the foundation, which was only formed late last year.

The mortgage lending institution was previously involved, through the Mutual Building Societies Foundation, with the Centres of Excellence project geared at improving leadership and pedagogy in schools.

“That project was a success,” Campbell declared Monday. “It whet our appetite for school-based projects such as this one that is in keeping with our commitment to build economic empowerment and financial literacy for all Jamaicans. This training in entrepreneurship is not only directly aligned with our purpose of empowering Jamaicans to achieve financial independence, it will also contribute to more inclusive growth in Jamaica as more young Jamaicans would be equipped to meaningfully participate in the formal economy.”

The participants selected for year one of the Social Enterprise in Secondary Schools programme are Denbigh, Montego Bay, Charlie Smith, Kingston Technical, Greater Portmore, St Catherine, and St Elizabeth Technical high schools.

The British Council touts it as the first of its kind in the Americas in the history of the 80-year-old organisation, which has run “similar social enterprise programmes in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to great success”.

In Jamaica, British Council works in basic education and teacher training, arts and creative economy, youth and social enterprise and as of the 2018 financial year, equality, diversity and inclusion as well.

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