EDUCATION Minister Ronald Thwaites shocked guests at a scholarship awards function in Kingston yesterday when he announced that only 16 per cent of the island's Mathematics teachers are qualified to teach the subject.
"That's a reality that is now being presented to me. What we have to do is upgrade," said Thwaites, who also told the JPS & Partners Co-operative Credit Union's 2012 Awards Luncheon at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston that competence in Mathematics was critical for all other technical and scientific fields.
He said the nation cannot afford to be sorry about the situation, but must work to upgrade Mathematics teachers in the system "and to make sure that more and more competencies are available in these areas".
The minister's revelation comes just days after the release of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination results that showed a drop in both Mathematics and English Language scores.
Passes (students obtaining grades one to three) in CSEC Mathematics dropped from 33 per cent in 2011 to 31.7 per cent this year, prompting calls for an investigation into this year's results. The pass rate in 2010 was 41 per cent.
The CSEC's Subjects Awards Committee said it was "deeply concerned about the poor quality of work produced by candidates at this level" and called for regional action to address the deficiencies.
"Topics such as the range, perimeter, and profit and loss that should be covered at the lower secondary level were not fully understood," the committee said in a statement.
One question in particular, which tested perimeter and area, saw 36 per cent of candidates scoring no marks, while 36 per cent scored no marks on another on Algebra, the committee noted.
It was reported a few years ago that a number of Math teachers had not passed the subject before entering college, but figures were never released about the few number of qualified Math teachers in the nation's schools.
Yesterday, the JPS & Partners Co-operative Credit Union awarded 34 bursaries and a scholarship to students who will be attending high school next month, as well as to two university students.
Dana-Roi Brown, who will be commencing a degree in Management Studies at the University of the West Indies in September, walked away with the Albert 'Bertie' Morris Scholarship worth $300,000 over two years.
In recognition of Jamaica's 50th year of Independence, the credit union awarded a Jamaica 50 bursary worth $50,000 to Tiffany McMorris, who will be pursuing a degree in Media and Communication at the International University of the Caribbean. She was given the award based on academics and her involvement in community development and nation-building.
Thirty-one students who will be starting high school in September were awarded bursaries worth $12,500 each per year for five years. A special bursary was also given to Queen's School student Sherika Smith, who was also awarded $12,500 per year for the next four years.
Minister Thwaites congratulated the award recipients and their parents, whom he hailed as being good parents.
"Going forward there has to be a renewed emphasis on literacy and numeracy in our society," he said. "Those who are being awarded today are the cream of the crop and we congratulate them on their achievements."
He commended the JPS & Partners Co-operative Credit Union for awarding the bursaries and scholarships.
"I would like to say that although your spirit is noble, there is also a very strong and laudable level of self-interest in what you are doing because there is going to be no business in Jamaica that is going to be prosperous unless you have an educated workforce; unless we have an enabled generation of consumers who will purchase whatever service you are offering," the minister said.