Partnership essential for transformation of education sector
Jamaica’s education system has long-standing challenges. These cannot be fixed with the waving of a magic wand. Indeed, transformation of the present education system requires diligent attention, massive injection of financial and other resources and an ironclad national recognition that all our citizens are entitled to quality education.
The Ministry of Education and Youth, consistent with the recommendations of the Orlando Patterson Commission on the reform of Jamaica’s education sector, is already far advanced in completing the operationalisation roadmap for the overhaul of our present education system.
For example, in conjunction with the Mona School of Business and Management at The University of the West Indies, we have completed a project monitoring and evaluation plan. We have completed a multi-year budget. Simultaneously, we are well-advanced in the completion of preparatory work that will inform seismic legislative shifts in local education.
A critical cog of the transformation process is the overhaul of legislations which are no longer fit-for-purpose. The Education Act of 1965, and the Education Regulations, 1980, were created to advance Jamaica’s education at a particular time in our history. Since that time, Jamaica and the world have progressed by leaps and bounds. It is a settled matter that a nation’s education system undergirds its economic, social, moral, and technological, growth and development.
Best practice globally shows that transformation in education has to be underpinned by a fit-for-purpose legislative framework. For these and other reasons members of the joint select committee reviewing the Jamaica Teaching Council Bill are well advanced in our work. Consequently, over many months, stakeholders from the different rungs of the education system have delivered submissions to help secure much-needed legislative change.
Indeed, a partnership approach continues to guide all efforts to transform Jamaica’s education. In recent times, the ministry has increased partnership engagements islandwide in furtherance of inclusion.
Transformation of our education system is a Herculean task. Without the necessary adhesive of inclusion, efforts to transform education will likely wither.
Massive infrastructural overhaul
The infrastructural overhaul of our schools is one of the areas where inclusion is very critical. Infrastructure is costly. To overhaul the physical infrastructure of our schools requires massive investment which will have to come through close collaboration between the public and private sectors. Why? There are 1,010 schools in Jamaica. Most of these schools were built decades ago. Many were built at a time when inclusion of the disabled community was a very low priority consideration.
Many were built at a time when basic amenities, as they are viewed today, were then considered as the preserve of the upper classes. In addition, many were built in an era of deep-seated societal prejudices. Overhauling decades old infrastructural disadvantages will not happen overnight.
The Ministry of Education and Youth has set a 10-year target to transform Jamaica’s education system. Ten years is a very short time to uproot decades of systematic imbalances — infrastructural and otherwise. Nevertheless, inclusivity is a priority along the road to education transformation.
The ministry recognises the imperative of the Disabilities Act which came into force in 2022. We recognise too that Minister Karl Samuda, the labour and social security minister at the time of the law’s promulgation, gave a five-year timetable for the Government to retrofit all its buildings.
The ministry is committed to retrofitting all schools with ramps and railings to accommodate students with physical disabilities within the five-year timeline. Given the present trajectory of the ministry, I am positive that objective will be achieved. To date 302 ramps and 163 rails have been constructed through private and public sector collaborations.
As we move towards the goal of retrofitting all schools, the ministry encourages all parents and guardians to provide all necessary information to the learning institutions that their child or children attends.
This information will form part of the required comprehensive engagement which all children need. Relevant information benefits all stakeholders in the learning environment. The timely supply of information in the Information Age is a basic tool of development. The ministry encourages its use by all stakeholders.
— Fayval Williams is Jamaica’s Minister of Education and Youth