JIS News

Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, has stated that the Ministry will be placing renewed focus on providing universal access to secondary education.
Addressing the inaugural Future Leadership Diaspora Conference 2009 today (Aug. 5) at the University of the West Indies’ Mona Visitors Lodge, he said that the country has already achieved universal primary education and is now moving to ensure similar access at the secondary school level.
Mr. Holness informed that currently, there is universal access up to grade nine, but challenges still remain to ensuring full admission above the junior high level. At the secondary level, access to education currently stands at about 68 per cent.
“We need to build more schools to take the schools that are currently on shift off shift.we need to build schools to accommodate the out of school population and we also need to build schools to reduce the pupil/teacher ratio,” he explained.
He noted however that the pupil to teacher ratio is expected to fall significantly over the next 10 years, given that the birth rate in the island is trending down.
For Mr. Holness, access is not the only ingredient in the thrust towards universal secondary education. He informed that the quality of the education received at that level is also being looked at critically.
He underscored the importance of raising standards at the primary schools so that at the secondary level, focus can be placed on delivering the curriculum rather than on remedial education.
He told the conference that the current drive towards attaining 100 per cent literacy in primary schools by 2015 was informed by the need to improve standards at the secondary level.
Turning to other matters, the Education Minister told the conference that the Ministry is engaged in the process of putting together a Compulsory Education Policy, which will deal with issues such as truancy.
He said there is also a programme in place, which addresses the 100 schools with the worst attendance records.
Mr. Holness was participating in one of three workshops held simultaneously on day one of the two-day conference. He fielded questions from young people from Jamaica and the Diaspora, who also enquired about how they could become more involved in the Education Transformation Programme.
The conference is being held under the theme: ‘Connecting Diaspora Future Leaders: Solidifying our Places in our Homelands and Jamaica’.

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