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A total of 326 public schools, from a list of 445, have been rehabilitated and upgraded under the Ministry of Education’s Transformation Project. This represents upwards of a 73 per cent completion rate under the initiative, said State Minister for Education, Senator Noel Monteith.
The State Minister, who was contributing to the State of the Nation Debate in the Upper House on Friday (Nov. 10), noted that a total of 1,900 classroom spaces have been provided to date, with a projection of 3,235 by the first quarter of 2007.
“The expenditure to date is $798 million and another 300 schools have been identified [for construction] for the 2006/2007 academic year,” he informed.
Senator Monteith noted further that “in an effort to address some of the urgent needs that some institutions might have, the Ministry of Education has been using prototype buildings that can be put up quickly, which will add some 685 spaces costing $1.6 billion. The plans for these schools are at pre-contract phase with design in progress”.
The Education State Minister said that the thrust to provide more spaces for students, came on the heels of the recently completed space audit of the nation’s schools, which looked at the strategic placement of schools in regard to population growth, shift and job opportunities. “It also addresses the long-term goals of eliminating the shift system and the reduction of class sizes,” he pointed out.
He told the Senate that the Education Ministry was “working assiduously to provide quality furniture to all our schools and this ongoing project has seen the delivery of 89,630 units [of furniture] to schools across the island. The plan is to ensure that there is a ready supply of furniture available. We have so far spent $220 million providing furniture for schools in this regard.”
In the meanwhile, Senator Monteith informed that steps were being taken to improve the teacher/student ratio. “We recognise that the state of the learning environment is a fact that affects learning outcome. Our teachers and students must be able to work in comfortable classrooms,” he said, explaining that it would cost some $32 billion to maintain a 40:1 ratio in high schools.
Projecting further, he said it would cost $37 billion to achieve a ratio of 35 students: one teacher and $42.7 billion for a ratio of 32:1.