'Transform education system without political interference'

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites says the transformation of Jamaica's education system must be done without political interference, if the process is to be successful.

Thwaites, who was addressing the 58th annual Hanover Charities grant and scholarship presentation ceremony at the Round Hill Hotel in Hanover recently, said the nation's education enterprise should not be viewed as a social service, but for the role it plays in the development of the country.

"It is the hub of all development, personal and national, and it is beyond politics. What I am saying to you today is not to be shaken by the changes of Government whenever that takes place...so don't let any of the isms and schisms enter into the realm of education," Thwaites said.

The education minister pointed out that since Jamaica gained Independence in 1962, the education system, especially at the secondary level, has made significant improvements.

"When we got independence 53 years ago, some 15 per cent of the high school age cohort had a place in a high school. This year 100 per cent of all of our children after (taking) the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) are going to be beneficiaries of a high school education. That is progress. That is investment," he said.

At the same time, Thwaites lamented the spending of $20 billion annually on remedial education, adding that efforts must be made to reduce that bill by doing it right the first time in schools.

"Can you imagine what salaries we could pay, what opportunities and facilities we could have if we were using that money for development rather than remedial purposes? We must do it right the first time and that means that early childhood education must have pride of place in a way it has never had before," he stated.

The education minister also pointed out that the number of trained teachers in the early childhood sector has been doubled this year and efforts are being made to have those educators properly remunerated.

Meanwhile, Minister Thwaites challenged farmers in Hanover to start focusing on producing more, with a view of supplying the school-feeding programmes at institutions in the parish.

"We have to come out of the cheese trix and bag juice culture and we have to move back into the porridge and eggs and the fruits, and I call upon the people of Hanover to engage each other in producing the food for our school-feeding programme," Thwaites said.

-- JIS

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