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70,000 spaces needed to end shift system

St Andrew High School opens biology and integrated science lab, counselling centre

Saturday, September 22, 2012    

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SEVENTY thousand new spaces are needed to end the shift system in secondary schools, Minister of Education Rev Ronald Thwaites said yesterday.

Speaking at the function to officially open the refurbished science laboratory and a counselling centre at the St Andrew High School for Girls, Thwaites called on all Jamaicans to contribute to the development of quality schools for all children.

"It's not just government but all of Jamaica that needs to understand the primacy of learning," Thwaites said.

The shift system has been often cited as one of the reasons for the underperformance of students in the education system.

According to the Ministry of Education's school profiles for 2010-11, there were 110 schools running on shift — 25 primary, nine all-age, 32 primary and junior high, 39 secondary, and one technical high school.

Students at shift schools have about four-and-a-half hours of contact time per day, compared with five-and-a-half hours at other schools.

Two months ago, the now president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association Clayton Hall said the shift system had contributed to a division of educated and non-educated classes.

In the meantime, Thwaites, in congratulating St Andrew High on its achievements as one of the country's leading secondary schools, commended the institution for providing its students with a strong social and spiritual grounding as well.

He also urged students to achieve a balance between the academic and technical and vocational disciplines.

"The world that you are going to graduate into requires you to have academic competencies and technical and vocational skills as well," he said. "There are many who have six, seven and eight subjects at CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) but have two left hands, they can't do anything that's practical. There is another class of students who can do the practical things but do not have the basic foundation of English, mathematics and science," the minister said.

Principal Sharon Reid, in giving the vote of thanks, said "at St Andrew High for Girls education has never been and will never be just about passing an examination. A good education must involve adequate training for our youngsters in mastering both learning skills and life skills."

Director of the SAHS Foundation Prof Elsa Leo Rhynie said the new lab, called Lab 35, was refurbished at a cost of $6 million in cash and kind, most of which was contributed by old girls (past students).

She said three other labs were to be refurbished as they were more than 70 years old.

Major donors included Jamaica National and the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, which contributed $250,000.

President of the school's Parent Teachers Association Prof Dale Webber said a record $1.8 million was collected from the PTA's walkathon earlier this year. The PTA was in charge expanding the Fay Saunders Counselling Centre.

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