Minister of Education, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, is urging the nation to concentrate on early childhood education, as “getting it right the first time” is critical to students’ development and academic success.
Speaking at the Jamaica House press briefing, held at the Office of the Prime Minister, on June 20, Rev. Thwaites said the sector is being redefined, to formally include the pre-primary years, to the end of Grade Three.
“The reason why that’s being done is because the science tells us that this is the period for the formation of personality, and the arc of major brain development,” he explained.
There will also be advanced training for more than 500 teachers; the recruitment of 200 new teachers and teaching aides this September (under one aspect of the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme); and the construction of over 60 new infant schools.
The Minister informed that in September, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, comprehensive physical and psychological assessment will be provided for children at the early childhood level.
“We believe that the exceptionalities, the special education needs are best diagnosed at the earliest stage and treated at that stage, where it can be corrected, and where the cost is more economical, rather than a situation where we have behavioural and other pathologies, later on,” he added.
Rev. Thwaites said the Ministry is also committed to increasing the value and quantity of the nutritional supplement given to all basic institutions. “It will take some time… we now know that close to 30 per cent of our children are coming to school hungry, and it is the responsibility, not only government, but communities, to allay this,” he said, while calling for increments in the amounts given to PATH beneficiaries for nutrition, and more funding to enhance the school feeding programme.
Meanwhile, he said the Ministry will be seeking to cluster community basic schools into government sponsored infant schools, where there is space.
Rev. Thwaites said while the Ministry does not want to discourage the tradition of community basic schools, the quality of education provided must be foremost. “We encourage persons who have community basic schools to link with the Ministry of Education and the Early Childhood Commission to see how we can improve their standards, and there are going to be instances where we encourage them to cluster in a quality infant institution,” he explained.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Senior Reporter