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Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, has challenged the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), to find ways of sustaining the learning options available to the pool of uneducated, unskilled young people who leave the school system each year without any credentials.
The Minister was addressing the first meeting of the JFLL Board on June 24 at the Foundation’s headquarters, 47b South Camp Road in Kingston. The Board is chaired by Senator Hyacinth Bennett.
Mr. Holness told the members that each year, about 7,000 students leave school without sitting examinations, another 4,000 sit examinations but never pass, making it impossible for them to “matriculate into anything.”
On the JFLL’s range of options to those in the 16-18 age group, the Minister said that in providing programmes for those outside the traditional educational system, the Foundation would help them better their situations. He noted that the programmes offered by the JFLL would help the unqualified school leavers and others without the relevant academic qualifications to access existing programmes offered by HEART and the National Youth Service (NYS), for which they do not now qualify.
In delivering his charge to the Board, the Minister said it is important that ways are found to solve the problem caused by “that flow of unattached, unskilled, unemployable young people,” noting that it is from this group that criminals and deviants come.
He lamented the lack of resources, while pointing to the “overwhelming” problem of having to provide skills training for the large number of under-qualified students leaving school each year.
“So many of these people who we hope to put into skills training wouldn’t have the basic academic qualification or even basic education upon which to build a skill,” Mr. Holness said.
By focusing on “a skills-thrust” the JFLL can make a significant impact, the Minister said, noting that the Foundation has a big role to play in the development of Jamaica’s human resource, through the provision of educational services to anyone who lacked the academic credentials to develop a skill.
Mr. Holness assured that the work of the Foundation would, in the near future, be supported by a Mentorship Act, which would formalise the process of mentoring and with it the concept of life-long learning.
The JFLL is an agency of government, set up to continue and enhance the literacy programmes started by its predecessor, the Jamaican Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL). The JFLL is also charged with providing options for Jamaicans who have no formal credentials, such as a high school diploma or examination passes.
Earlier this month, the JFLL expanded the high school equivalency programme, which aims to fill the gap between secondary school and skills training for those who lack credentials as well as adults who do not have the required high school diploma. There is also a workplace programme for employers who wish to give workers on-the-job training to upgrade their education and skill levels.