Let's set the education record straight

Let's set the education record straight


Monday, March 30, 2015

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Having watched the recent contribution by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness to the budget debate in Parliament, I must add my own position and state some facts.

Holness spent the entire section on education giving the false impression that it was under his watch that certain policies and programmes of the Ministry of Education were implemented.

In fact, I must give him his due, as he, by his utterances, have clearly endorsed the achievements of the present minister of education and the ministry and the success of the Education Transformation Programme.

The former People's National Party Administration, under the leadership of P J Patterson, has been vindicated for using the $5 billion from National Housing Trust to support the Transformation Programme in 2005-2006. Recall how the Jamaica Labour Party opposed that move.

The blueprint for the transformation of the education system was prepared under former Education Minister Maxine Henry-Wilson. This gave rise to those agencies mentioned by Holness.

I hasten to underscore the success of both the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) and the National Educational Inspectorate (NEI). NCEL, over the past three years, has trained over 540 principals and educators, and the NEI has conducted inspections in approximately 900 schools. I note with pride that NCEL has won an overseas consultancy as a result of its outstanding work.

Minister Thwaites has been quoted several times in the media on the importance of English Language across the curriculum, and the need for each student to leave the secondary level equipped with a marketable skill, along with English and mathematics. So, these are not new issues that Holness raised, although his support is welcomed.

His call for establishing partnership with, for example, churches and private sector, is merely an echo of what has been happening over the past two years. There is, in fact, an Ecumenical Education Committee which is actively involved in the policy and programme direction of the ministry. There is also a Private Sector Oversight Committee for Education that influences the work of the ministry.

The area of tertiary education is acknowledged to need greater capitalisation. Holness's recommendation of redirecting funds from tertiary institutions into the Students' Loan Bureau would, in my opinion, result in increased fees at the institutions. Hence, students would ultimately have to borrow more to fund their studies.

It is a good idea for parents to begin saving from the earliest towards their children's tertiary education, and this advice has been given on numerous occasions by Minister Thwaites over the past three years. However, I cannot agree with Holness's recommendation that Government should provide matching funds to the parents' resources. This, in my opinion, will foster inequity, as the most economically able will give more and receive more.

Finally, Jamaica does not need and cannot afford an Education Transformation Programme Phase II. What is needed, instead, is the implementation and management of those successes of which Holness spoke. There can be no room for metamorphosis at this stage.

It's over to you, Minister Thwaites, Holness has echoed your policies and achievements.

Richard Parchment, JP, is People's National Party member of parliament for St Elizabeth South Eastern. Comments: pata1961@yahoo.com

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