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Thwaites calls for greater balance between skills and academics

Thursday, September 04, 2014    

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EDUCATION Minister Ronald Thwaites says there is need for greater balance between skills and academic qualifications in order to effectively satisfy and compete in the labour market.

Delivering the keynote address at the Kiwanis Club of Kingston's 50th anniversary scholarship presentation meeting, held at the New Kingston Conference Centre on Tuesday, Thwaites said he was concerned that some overseas employers had expressed challenges recruiting workers as some were highly qualified academically, but were unable to apply the requisite skills, while others had the competence, but did not have adequate certification to effectively balance technical and vocational skills.

"What we have to do going forward is to bring those two tendencies together," he suggested, emphasising that these are some of the reasons why the ministry has been reforming the education system, "from the bottom to the top".

"At the early childhood level, we have to put far more emphasis than we have before," the minister said, noting that the Government now devotes 14 per cent of the education budget to that sector.

Thwaites added that more focus must be placed on the holistic development of children at this level, and not just academics.

"Build their personality; they need to learn to play, shape, colour and to cooperate...how to play in a team, how to share and build social competence, so that we can overcome the more than 30 per cent of our children that aren't attitudinally ready for primary school," he said.

At the secondary level, the minister said the difficulties of the shift system must be resolved. "We have to find different ways to ensure that our children are getting the full time of instructions," he added.

Thwaites attributed the significant improvement in mathematics at this year's sitting of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations to the application of new methodologies, and support for teachers who had a difficulty teaching mathematics.

The minister said he also expected improvement in science and technology, as a result of gains in mathematics.

In the meantime, Thwaites commended the work of philanthropic organisations such as the Kiwanis Club and alumni associations in helping to support and strengthen local schools.

Joelle Blake, a second-year business administration student at the University of Technology (UTech) was the recipient of the club's Carlton Levy Memorial Scholarship, which will fund her tuition over the next

three years.

Ambassador Burchell Whiteman, acting president of UTech, congratulated Blake on the scholarship, which is being offered by the Kiwanis Club for the first time.

The scholarship is named in honour of stalwart Kiwanian, Carlton Levy, who served the club for 46 years.

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