Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness said that the Government will be investing more resources in early childhood education, with the subsidy to the sector to double over the next two years.
He said that the allocation will continue to increase over the next decade until all pre-primary students are getting the full support from the Government.
The Minister was delivering the keynote address at the annual Adopt-a-school brunch organised by the Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) Canada in Toronto on Sunday November 14.
Noting the importance of early childhood education, he said that governments around the world have seen the need to invest more at the base of the education system than they did before.
Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness (right), accepts a cheque from President of the Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) Canada, Dr. Mary Anne Chambers, for the All Saints Basic School in St. Andrew. Minister Holness was the keynote speaker at the annual Adopt-a-school Brunch organised by PACE Canada, held on Sunday November 14 in Toronto.
The Bill of Rights, which was tabled in Parliament, states that all Jamaican students at the pre-primary and primary levels should have access to free early childhood and primary education and the Minister said that this will be done by building more and better schools.
He said that during the past two years, the Early Childhood Commission, which regulates the sector, has inspected over 2,000 of the 2,740 early childhood institutions, and passed 1,000 of them. “This means that they have met the minimum standards necessary in health, sanitation, teacher training and in safety and security,” he explained.
He called on members of the Diaspora to assist those schools that need help to meet the minimum standards and get their certification. The list of schools and their needs will be posted on the Ministry’s website.
Turning to the high school level, the Education Minister said that emphasis is being placed on addressing the disparity between the traditional and upgraded schools.
Explaining that there are core services that all secondary schools must offer, Minister Holness said the Government has removed the obligatory tuition fee that high schools used to pay and now funds equally, the core services, so that the distribution of the education budget is equitable across the board.
“We pay the teachers, we maintain the plants, we provide a textbook rental scheme, we provide a nutrition programme and we provide overhead costs of running the school,” he pointed out.
Giving an update on other areas of the economy, Minister Holness said Jamaica is moving in the right direction as the transformation taking place in education is also being manifested in other sectors. For instance, he said, a big dent has been made in the high interest rate problem through the debt exchange programme and for the first time in two decades, the country is on-track to see a 17 to 20 per cent reduction in the number of murders committed.
He said that the country has also improved on the Human Development Index, which looks at income, access to social services and education and according to Transparency International, which measures corruption, Jamaica has improved by 12 places and is now ranked 87 out of 170 countries in the world.
The philosophy of the Government, said Minister Holness, is to do whatever is necessary to make sure Jamaica realises its true potential as the super island of the world.
Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Canada, Her Excellency Sheila Sealy Monteith, reminded the audience that education is the principal vehicle for personal advancement and fulfillment, and for economic and social development of a country. She thanked the members of the Jamaican Diaspora for their commitment to Jamaica.
President of PACE Canada, Dr. Mary Anne Chambers, said the organisation is committed to supporting early childhood education in Jamaica. “We know that children will only thrive when they receive the support they need early in life,” he said.
Dr. Chambers, who was Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and also the former Minister of Children and Youth Services, presented a cheque in the amount of CAN$365 to Minister Holness for All Saints Basic School, which is in the Minister’s West Central St. Andrew constituency.
The amount represents the costs of sponsoring a basic school through PACE Canada, which has adopted close to 300 basic schools in Jamaica and impacted the lives of more than 5,000 students.