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Thwaites calls on Gov't to review grade 7 curriculum

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

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OPPOSITION spokesman on education Ronald Thwaites is urging the Government to immediately review the grade seven curriculum in schools where students, who are not at the proficient level, have been placed following the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) assessment.

At a press conference at the People's National Party (PNP) headquarters yesterday, Thwaites argued that the almost-ended summer break has been wasted in so far as remediation of the approximately 27,000 grade six students whose PEP results, especially in English and mathematics, indicate that they will not be able to cope with secondary school studies.

He said, too, that the ministry's plan to introduce 100 math and 20 literacy coaches, plus psycho-educational assessors, at grade seven in the already underserved schools, is insufficient.

Thwaites also questioned the source of these coaches, given the continuing exit of math teachers from the system, and again stressed that specialist teachers should be sufficiently incentivised.

“If we want to make that difference we are going to have to demand an incentive for those teachers. We are still paying teachers which are in great demand the same as we pay others; we are rewarding the good, the bad, and the mediocre in the same way. The PNP says we need an immediate emphasis, by way of scholarships and additional salary, to those teaching posts that are in most demand,” he insisted.

The Opposition spokesman is also concerned about the cost of textbooks and the number of texts being required by schools.

He said that while the book industry says the price of books is relatively the same as last year, in some instances, long book lists negate that.

“We have seen a book list for PEP students that comes close to $60,000...this is unconscionable. The State must provide the basic texts and the supplementaries can be provided by students, or [they be] given access to them in a different way,” he said.

Thwaites said parents should be advised that they do not need to purchase all the books at the same time, and should enquire from schools the texts which are immediately required in order to purchase those first.

In the meantime, he again lamented the continuation of the shift system in some schools, arguing that lands which could be used to build schools are being sold to real estate dealers and holders of capital “to build apartments and townhouses, while schools remain on shift”.

He said the Opposition welcomes news that there are plans to provide breakfast for 70,000 of the most vulnerable children at the primary and early childhood levels, but that this is not enough. According to him, 30 per cent of students are still attending school without breakfast.

“We welcome it, but we wish to tell him that the number needing it is five or six times that multiple,” he stated.

Thwaites said the Opposition must insist that resources be found to ensure that, by the time schools reopen in September, they are properly resourced to dispense quality education.

He argued that, in the meantime, parents should not be “confused” that they need not contribute.

“Our principle remains — no child should ever be excluded or prejudiced in any way because of the inability of their parents to contribute. At the same time, given the present financial arrangement between the Government and the public schools, every contribution by a parent is a worthwhile investment in their child's education,” he said.


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