Minister of Education, Hon. Ronald Thwaites, says he will be placing focus on underperforming schools, noting that he will be visiting these institutions to assess their needs and provide them with the necessary support to get up to par.
"I want to go 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 stated.
Mr. Thwaites, who was addressing staff of the Ministry at his National Heroes Circle offices today (January 9), 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 pointed out.
"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 stated.
Mr. 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 Grade Four Literacy results and the Education Transformation Programme.
The Education Minister told the members of staff, 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 stated.
Minister 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."
The Education Minister will also be meeting with members of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) on Tuesday (Jan. 10) at the Ministry, where several matters of importance will be discussed.
He informed that he is to receive a report on the opening of the new school term by this afternoon through the regional offices.
The start of the Easter term had to be pushed back by four days to facilitate the December 29, 2011 general election and to ensure that school administrators would have enough time to put everything in place to accommodate students.