JIS News

Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, has said that the Government is looking at the issue of budgetary allocation to the sector, and is now willing to seriously make a shift, to focus on the earlier stages of the education system.
Speaking at the launch of the National Strategic Plan and the World Bank Early Childhood Development Project, today (February 18), at the Terra Nova Hotel, in Kingston, Mr. Holness said Jamaica spends 19 times more on tertiary education in the national budget, than it does at the Early Childhood level.
“It gives you an indication of the balance of the education budget, how it is skewed and it gives us an instruction as well, that if you want to get the most out of your education budget, then you need to do some amount of rebalancing, to focus resources on the earlier stages of education,” the Minister said.
“So, the Government is looking into that, but we know that is a very complex issue. It is an issue where there is significant political investment and any changes that would see any major or sharp rebalancing in the education budget, would have to go through a process of dialogue, ending up in consensus,” he added.
The Minister said what is being done at the early childhood level “is a critical step in supporting the policy decisions that I have been advocating at the primary level and at the secondary level.”
In his address, Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw, stressed that the government would not compromise on the early childhood sector.
“Ultimately, we must set priorities…it is one of the challenges of allocating scarce resources. We will always have scarcity of resources, but we must have the will and the fortitude to be able to isolate those priorities,” Mr. Shaw said.
In the meantime, Mr. Holness said the launch of the project represents a new thrust for World Bank funding.
“I want to say to the development partners that we in Jamaica are very happy with the new direction in which the World Bank and other partners have been going, in terms of supporting human resource development in this way. I have always said the best thing to borrow for, is education. It is the most equitable form of borrowing, as the people who benefit are the ones who will repay,” Mr. Holness said.
In her remarks, Chairman of the Early Childhood Commission, Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughn, explained that the National Strategic Plan and the World Bank Early Childhood Development Project is a five year plan, which takes into consideration all the areas of early childhood development.
“We need to ensure that all the needs of our young people and families are met, thus allowing the achievement of their full potential and to ensure comprehensive and co-ordinated delivery of services,” Professor Samms-Vaughn said.
After five years, the Plan is aimed at ensuring that early childhood parenting education and support services will be of a high quality; health centres will offer high quality services, that aim to keep children well; there will be trained persons called ‘Child Development Therapists’, who will help children with special needs; early childhood institutions will meet the required standards; and the state of the Jamaican child’s development will be checked and reported to the public.

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