On November 11 USAID took top honors at the Scientific Research Council’s 23rd Science and Technology Conference when it was awarded first place in the category of Education and Popularization of Science and Technology for the development of a community safety and security courseware. The courseware was created for inclusion in GoGSAT.com’s e-learning programs, which were designed to prepare students for the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). Therefore, in addition to taking online practice tests in Math, English, Science, and Communication Tasks, students were introduced to ways to keep themselves and their loved ones safe through the interactive modules.
GoGSAT is an e-learning program that offers online tutoring and practice tests to prepare students for the GSAT. In addition to GoGSAT.com, USAID shared the award with its other partners: the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), the Social Development Commission, the Ministry of Education, and the Child Development Agency. After winning in the education category, USAID also won third place overall for national innovations.
Mr. Ken Lyvers, Director of the Office of Sustainable Development at USAID/Jamaica, said technology was very important in enhancing student learning. “Young people need accurate information to inform their choices and build their awareness of their own roles, rights and responsibilities.” He lauded the courseware content for being able to concurrently excite and educate students.
The courseware informs students about community policing and how it works; the Child Care and Protection Act; and youth development programs. It includes pre and post tests and interactive quizzes to strengthen and enhance the learning experience. It also features online chats with police officers where students can directly engage members of the police force on their respective roles in building safer communities. The safety and security curriculum also includes modules on fire and road safety; personal safety such as ‘what to do if you get lost’; avoiding corrosive substances; and important telephone numbers to remember.
USAID’s assistance in this area, through its Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) Project, complements its support to the JCF to develop and implement innovative strategies to address youth issues and promote wider community participation in safety and security. Gangs and truancy are major concerns in some communities and JCF reports state gang members are often recruited from a pool of youth who drop out of school after failing exams and performing poorly in school. In an effort to address this issue, the JCF and USAID worked together to sponsor 370 students from selected communities to participate in the GoGSAT online preparatory courses during the 2008 academic year. This effort was highly successful as more than 80 percent of the participating students, most of whom were deemed at risk of performing poorly, received high grades in their exams and several were awarded scholarships. This success resulted in the expanded program which supported 3,900 students and the inclusion of the safety and security courseware.
The Community Safety and Security Courseware is accessible to any child who accesses the GoGSAT online system, and therefore reaches students beyond those directly supported under the COMET project.