Minister of Education, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, says the Ministry hopes to advance the cause of special education for the next three to four years, despite the limited resources.
“We spend only three per cent of the education budget on Early Childhood and Special Education. This year we are going to raise that percentage to close to five per cent, and we hope to increase it to fifteen per cent over the next three or four years,” he stated.
The Minister was delivering the keynote address at the opening of the Jamaica Independent Schools Association Principals’ Conference at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort and Spa, in Ocho Rios, on April 24. The conference, which ends on April 26, is being held under the theme: ‘Building the capacity of Independent Schools through values-based Education’.
He urged the administrators of Independent Schools to take the issue of special education as their niche of great significance in transforming the education system, pointing out that it is in that area that the help of the independent schools is needed most.
“We would welcome a dialogue with you, those of you who are so engaged, as to how we can facilitate in this regard,” the Minister said.
Rev. Thwaites also announced that the Ministry has in its 2013/2014 budget, provision for the establishment of three new diagnostic centres across the island, one in Mandeville, one in Montego Bay and the other in Port Antonio.
“We invite you to make use of them fully, so that we can assist you in diagnostic matters and in the therapy that must follow,” he said.
Rev. Thwaites said the Ministry will be organizing training for special educators over the upcoming summer months, while extending an invitation to the independent schools to make sure they participate in the exercise.
“Our aim is to have a Special Education Teacher in every school by 2016, and it must include the Independent Schools,” the Minister insisted.
By Bryan Miller, JIS Reporter