Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, has said the estimated $18 billion expended each year by the public and private sectors on remedial education could be better spent at the foundation level “getting it right the first time”.
Noting that this amount is about “20 per cent of the expenditure on education”, he said more focus must be placed “at the basic levels, (with) basic concepts and fundamental principles. Better outcomes later on, depend on early intervention."
The Minister was addressing the launch of the Butterkist National Primary Schools' Math Competition on February 15 at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston.
Minister Thwaites implored communities, parents and individuals to take an active interest in the life of the school rather than regarding it as the sole responsibility of school boards, principals and teachers.
Turning to longstanding need for new school places, he reiterated the Government’s desire to establish public/private sector partnership in providing “the 100,000 new places needed to get rid of the shift system and the high proportion of students per teacher."
Mr. Thwaites posited that this kind of partnership “must once again become the cornerstone of educational development in Jamaica” given the limitation of state resources.
Meanwhile, the Minister lauded Butterkist for fostering a love for mathematics among students, through its annual competition. Underscoring the importance of mathematics to national development, he noted that the subject was fundamental to the advancement of science and technology.
Citing the latest Grade Four Numeracy Test, which revealed 49 per cent mastery, he said the Education Ministry will continue to take aggressive steps to achieve improvement in those results.
He disclosed that earlier this week, during a meeting with the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), the issue of strengthening excellence in mathematics was explored.
The Buttterkist mathematics competition was started in 1992 to encourage excellence in the subject at the primary level, and to prepare students to better handle math when they begin high school. This year’s contest will be held on May 10, with some 300 primary schools expected to participate. The deadline for entries is March 16.
The prize-giving ceremony is slated for June 15, and at that time, the top student will be awarded the Butterkist Primary School Math Scholarship worth $50,000, among other prizes. There will also be special awards for the champion in each parish, as well as for the teachers.
The Seprod Group sponsors the competition, now in its 20th year, through its Butterkist brand.
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter