The Government will be increasing provisions to the Student Loan Bureau (SLB) in the new financial year.
Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, said that this will enable the organisation to provide more loan support to students, who wish to pursue tertiary education.
“I believe that I can say that in the upcoming financial year, increased provision will be made so that those who have come to the level of tertiary education can be assisted by more ample availability of student loans and financing than has happened in the past. To me, this is a signal achievement,” he stated.
The Education Minister was addressing the graduation ceremony for 67 teachers held on Sunday (January 13) at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St. James.
The SLB funds approximately 30 per cent of the island’s tertiary students. Minister Thwaites informed the audience that the Government had to find $2.7 billion this year to cover the obligations of the bureau.
He said that despite the economic challenges, the Government continues to give priority to education, with the allocation to the sector commanding a large portion of the budget.
“Jamaica spends 6.5 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 14 per cent of its budget on education, a higher proportion than any other country in the Caribbean region, except Cuba,…after paying the debts that are due, education gets pride of place,” he pointed out.
The Minister argued that given the significant investment, it is important that the education resources are utilised in the most efficient way possible to get the best returns from the sector.
“We have to look radically at the way we spend our education dollar and to determine the best way to ensure that we are getting the highest returns,” he stated.
He noted, for example, that the Government spends upwards of $2.5 billion each year “to keep teachers out of the classroom” as they pursue advanced studies and that such spending could no longer be afforded.
“Teachers, who seek to be upgraded for services in the leadership and in the particular specialties of the education system, will have to do so virtually and by way of the holidays and other mechanisms, in order to preserve your places in the classrooms, because we cannot pay for the locum tenens (substitute teachers) anymore,” Rev. Thwaites stated.
The 67 teachers, from the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ and Mico University colleges had successfully completed the Master of Science in Educational Leadership and Master of Science in Reading and Language Arts, through the Central Connecticut State University in the United States.