KINGSTON, Jamaica – Education and training will be the number one priority for the next People’s National Party (PNP) administration.
That was the declaration made Sunday by PNP President and Opposition Leader Mark Golding as he addressed the public session of the PNP’s 85th annual conference at the National Arena in Kingston.
“The next PNP government will invest in the development of the capacities of our people to be productive and innovative in other areas too.
“To get there, we cannot accept what exists in education today, where over 30 per cent of children leaving primary school cannot read or write, and around 50 per cent do not have basic numeracy nor comprehension skills. That means every year many thousands of children enter high school without the foundational skills to cope with the secondary school curriculum. Most of them eventually leave high school without achieving the basic standard of five CSEC subjects including Maths and English,” said Golding.
He added that “We cannot address these fundamental problems that are retarding our national progress and holding us back without addressing the weaknesses in the education system. Taking our nation in the right direction can only happen with transformation in education and training”.
Golding argued that education and training are the key to a strong society and an economy capable of transformation. He promised that the PNP will prioritise early childhood development and primary schools because children must have a good start to advance.
“The goal of the next PNP Government will be to ensure that Jamaica has a first-class system of early childhood development and primary school education. That is how we will focus on bringing along those currently left behind.
“We will make investments in teacher training and compensation, in infrastructure and technology, in support services for parenting, to give our children the best start in life. We will expand and improve the school feeding programme, to ensure adequate and proper nutrition and encourage school attendance,” Golding said.
And he made a pitch for better recognition of the Jamaican language (Patois).
He said: “Jamaica is a world power in terms of cultural influence. The expressive style and power of our language is part of what has made the Jamaican language an international cultural language. If it is loved abroad, why don’t we respect it a yaad?”
“We must acknowledge that we have a language problem in this country. Part of the legacy of our colonial past is the belief that the Jamaican language, created by our own people, is somehow unworthy and only to be spoken by those who can’t do better. It is time to move beyond that negative and backward way of thinking. It is time for Jamaica to formally recognise Jamaican as a language, to give it its due respect,” the Opposition Leader added.
He argued that a major cause of under-achieving primary school performance is rooted in the assumption that English is the home-language of our children.
Continuing, he said: “We must use the Jamaican language to advance learning in English, arithmetic, and critical thinking. We must also place emphasis on student support and the diagnosis of learning disabilities. Many of our children are troubled and need deeper levels of facilitation. We owe this to our children so that they can secure better educational outcomes”.
Golding said education must also be the base of transformation towards a nation of productive citizens. To this end he said the PNP will reinstate civics as a mandatory course in the school system.
And he said “our children must understand the structure of our constitution, the fundamental rights and freedoms of every Jamaican citizen, and how to build democratic governance of our country”.
Stating that education and training are the antidotes to poverty, Golding said the PNP will eliminate the need for a guarantor of student loans, which many students from low income families find it hard to find.