Education Minister, Hon. the Rev. Ronald Thwaites, says the Government is committed to taking the measures necessary to enhance mastery in Mathematics and Science, particularly among the nation’s students.
This, he said, includes giving consideration to recruiting specialist teachers to assist in identifying areas in which students are deemed weak, in order to strengthen these weaknesses.
Speaking at the opening of Mico University College’s Science and Mathematics Teaching and Learning Conference, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on March 19, Rev. Thwaites lamented the current level of “deficiency” in mastery, particularly the deficiency in Mathematics, which “is at the very centre of our under-development."
The Minister said recent results of the Grade Four Numeracy Test revealed that less than half of the candidates were able to achieve mastery in Mathematics, adding that a similar pattern existed at the Grade 11 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level.
He bemoaned this development, pointing out that a significant percentage of employment opportunities available, both locally and globally, incorporated science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
“We have an unacceptable deficit in these fields, compared to other countries, other societies, (and) other people, with whom we must compete. We have allowed to grow, in Jamaica, a tolerance of a math aversion, despite the fact that if we seek employment to assuage the 20 or 25 per cent of our people who are either unemployed or underemployed, it is vitally important that we should improve in this regard,” the Minister said.
Pivotal to this, Rev. Thwaites noted, is the need to re-visit some of the current methodologies used to teach mathematics, which he described as “unrelated” to the subject. The Minister argued that these have often “not encouraged that enquiry, that development of reasoning capacities, problem solving, which are so important."
He added that “billions of dollars” are being spent to deliver remedial work in Mathematics, with uncertain results. In this regard, he welcomed the conference’s staging, emphasising that “the fruit of this conference must be that we seek to do things right, the first time.”
Over 60 lecturers, teachers, and other stakeholders from the Caribbean, Latin America and other countries are attending the two-day conference, being held under the theme: ‘Confronting the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in the Caribbean and Latin America’.
The conference will, among other things, seek to: facilitate an examination of the progress made by science and mathematics education in the region; provide a forum for sharing best practices in the teaching and learning of science and mathematics in early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary education; propose goals for science and mathematics teaching, relevant to regional human development; and establish a permanent forum for sustainable regional collaboration in mathematics and science education.
By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter