Education minister to focus on underperforming schools

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Education Minister Ronald Thwaites says he plans to focus on underperforming schools and will visit these schools to assess their needs in order to give them the support they need.

“I want to … see how all of us can help to improve them and to encourage the school community not to despair but to (strive towards) higher effort,” he said.

Thwaites was speaking to ministry staff at his National Heroes Circle offices, and said that the assistance provided to these schools must be based on their specific needs.

“I think we have to be specific to each institution. Some may have challenges of physical infrastructure, some may have challenges of inadequate pedagogy, and some may have challenges of nutrition,” he said.

“We do not yet know the capacity of the ministry to assist, but what one can do and must do is to affirm that what they are doing is worthwhile even if it is not adequate, and that they must know that we do not consider them as failures, but rather needing additional assistance to do well and to fulfil the purpose of this ministry, ‘that every child can learn and every child must learn’,” he said.

Thwaites said effort will also be concentrated on advancing the early childhood sector through a working plan “which offers practical possibilities for the registration of our pre-primary institutions, their better governance and, as far as possible, steps forward to have at least one trained early childhood teacher introduced over a period of time in each institution.”

Other priority areas include funding for tertiary education; research and development; and review of the 4th Grade literacy results and the Education Transformation Program.

Thwaites told the staff members, which included Acting Permanent Secretary Grace McLean, Chief Education Officer Clement Radcliffe, Acting Deputy Chief Education Officer Dr. Mary Campbell and heads of agencies that he intends to encourage the continuation of useful initiatives implemented under the previous administration to improve the education sector.

“Education is not an issue of partisan divisiveness. There must be a working consensus on education, which is going to surpass the life of any political administration and the incumbency of any minister. There will be changes that we will all hopefully agree on and when that time comes, we will deal with all that with full understanding,” he said.

Thwaites said he was “anxious” to schedule meetings with the various departments within the ministry, “so that I can get to know what you are doing and I can, more than anything else, listen to you tell us how we are going to improve our outputs and our outcomes within existing resources.”

Thwaites also met with members of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA).

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