Some schools are just day-care centres, charges PM

Some schools are just day-care centres, charges PM

Commission tasked with devising plan for 'radical change' of public education system

Senior staff reporter

Friday, July 24, 2020

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CHARGING that some schools are only playing the role of day-care centres, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has mandated a 14-member Education Transformation Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the public education system.

Holness, who served as minister of education in 2007, made the comment during the virtual launch of the commission Wednesday, in light of research done by the World Bank.

“The new World Bank Human Capital Index ranks each country in terms of productivity of the next generation of workers, and identifies Jamaica as among the countries that have made significant human capital gains. Despite the progress, however, important gaps remain. The World Bank study points out that children born in Jamaica today will be only 54 per cent as productive when they grow up as [compared to where] they could be if they enjoy complete education and good health,” the prime minister said.

He continued: “A child who starts school at age four can expect to complete approximately 12 years of school, but in terms of learning, only seven years — which means in terms of actual learning impact, approximately five of 12 years of school are wasted. I spent some of my years as minister of education and so I know the system well, and some schools are just playing the role of day-care centre – no education is taking place.”

He noted, too, that some might take offence to such a statement.

“We don't have the time for those luxuries; we have to speak the truth about our situation. And if we hide it and try to skirt around it, the problem won't go away. I am not about to let this problem grow any further,” the prime minister insisted.

Holness further noted that the country's “problem in education is not as a result of inadequate spending, [but that] we are not getting the impact based on what we spend”.

In pointing out that it is evident there is a need for another review of the public education system — covering all levels of education from early childhood to tertiary — since the last such review in 2004, Holness charged the body to “advise us as to what we need to do to create a world-class education system”.

“What I am looking for is not tinkering or tweaking, but real radical change that will put Jamaica on an entirely new trajectory to growth and prosperity. The system we build must ensure that all our children have access to this world-class education system that we build,” he stated.

In earlier statements, Holness, in “predicting that there will be shifts in the global supply chains and the productive hubs as they are presently configured”, said Jamaica must put itself in a position to benefit from those potential changes.

“In order to compete and remain relevant in the 21st century global economy, we have to fundamentally transform ourselves. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are at the heart of the global technological revolution. We need to make the mental shift from merely being users of technology to becoming creators and developers of technology,” the prime minister said.

Holness added: “There is much work to be done to create the Jamaican with the highest level of socio-emotional intelligence, competencies and skills.”

On Wednesday, the Opposition spokesman on education Peter Bunting, also speaking at the launch, supported the initiative while pointing out that 70 per cent of Jamaica's workforce have no educational certification, and only 15 per cent have tertiary-level education. Noting that students “must be educated differently” based on the changing times, Bunting said the mindset must be towards preparing students for more than just a single career.

“The learning environment at our schools must be different. The one silver lining of the pandemic must be it should accelerate the adoption of technology in the teaching and learning process,” he added.

Professor Orlando Patterson, who heads the Education Transformation Commission, said while Jamaica has much to be proud of having achieved universal schooling, an excellent tertiary system, hard-working teachers and administrators, a system free of political interference, for the most part, and an abundance of excellent research on the education system, “one must ask, with all the research and so on, why isn't the output better?”

Admitting that Jamaica has what the World Bank calls “a learning crisis”, Patterson said: “We are way behind and we have a crisis in many breaks my heart.”

The other members of the commission are: Professor Eleanor Brown; Professor David Tennant; Professor Michael Taylor; Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan; Erica Simmons, executive director at the Centre for Digital Innovation at Caribbean Maritime University; Archbishop the Reverend Donald Reece; Professor Colin Gyles; Dr Dana Morris Dixon; Dr Jeffrey Hall; Gordon Swaby, CEO Edufocal; Esther Tyson, former principal; Dr Garth Anderson, principal; and Floretta Plummer, former principal.

Last year, in speaking of the education transformation programme, Holness said it was “geared towards ensuring that Jamaica can leapfrog into the 21st century and that our human resources can be empowered with 21st century skills to get the 21st century jobs, so that we can become a leading and prosperous nation in the 21st century”.

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