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Minister of Education, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, has emphasised that there needs to be a change in the direction of education in the country.

“This direction (can) no longer be where the bright children do well in the academics, and the not so bright do the technical and vocational skills,” the Minister argued.

Rev. Thwaites emphasised that the modern world demands a balance between vocational skills and competencies and academic skills. “It’s not one or the other anymore,” he said.

The Minister was speaking at a press conference hosted by First Global Bank at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston on Thursday, February 14, to provide an update on the First Global Bank/First Global Financial Services-sponsored, ‘Music – Perfect Pitch for A Sound Education’ programme, which is making significant strides in a number of schools across the island.

Rev. Thwaites said it is important for education to be holistic and not skewed towards the academics, and commended First Global for sponsoring such a project.

He pointed out that the programme is giving children an avenue to acquire a skill that has commercial prospects, personal satisfaction, and spiritual upliftment.

“So, there are many different chords of human life that we are touching in this venture,” he added.

The Minister noted the importance of the music programme, as it helps to instill discipline and tenacity, which are important to children in their studies, as well as all other facets of life.

He said organisations, such as the church and small businesses, among other resourceful entities, could contribute to the strengthening of music programmes in schools, which would impact literacy and numeracy.

“Surely we have to make better use of what we have, rather than always approaching the world with outstretched hands,” the Minister said.

Music – Perfect Pitch for A Sound Education, utilises music to improve literacy and numeracy in primary schools. The initiative was launched in 2011 with six primary schools in Kingston, Montego Bay and Mandeville. The pilot programme saw music being introduced into the Grade Three curriculum in these schools.

By the end of the 2011/2012 school year, the programme reflected 90 per cent improvement in the literacy and numeracy skills of the 480 participating students from five of the six schools originally involved in the programme. Additionally, each student was able to play at least one musical instrument.

Based on the results of the pilot programme, First Global has decided to continue and expand the project to include Grade Four students, as well as add four new schools to the initiative.

In her remarks, President, First Global Bank, Maureen Hayden-Cater, said the bank has committed to providing musical instruments for the new schools that are being welcomed into the programme, as well as providing any additional instruments needed by the schools which are currently part of the programme.

“We will also ensure that the teachers who will be interacting with these students are adequately trained in music and are delivering the curriculum using music,” she said.