Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, has cited the need for increased focus on the delivery of special education to children in need of this intervention, at the earliest stage possible.
"The task of special education has, regrettably, by my observation, not been given sufficient attention by the educational managers of this country; and that is a statement of regret and, at the same time, a stimulus for a change of attitude," he said, while addressing the 4th Mico University College Child Assessment and Research in Education (CARE) biennial conference, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on Thursday (October 4),
The conference was held under the theme: 'Excellence in Education for all our children through Early Stimulation, Identification and Intervention'.
Rev. Thwaites informed that almost 30 per cent of Jamaica’s students range from "mild to serious" on the spectrum of educational deficiency, noting that "Jamaica has a higher percentage of students in need of special education than many other countries with which we compare ourselves". This development, he lamented, could, ultimately stymie their development and advancement.
In light of this, Rev. Thwaites underscored the conference’s relevance and importance in engaging specialists to share best practices in diagnostic and therapeutic services, for students in need of these interventions.
He encouraged the participants to focus, particularly, on the early childhood cohort to ensure that existing and potential challenges are identified, diagnosed and corrected at the earliest possible opportunity.
"Reflect on how it is, we can, within existing resources…engage our teachers in ensuring that our little children are diagnosed and referred, when necessary, for treatment," he urged.
Mr. Thwaites said the CARE Centre is the leading public educational institution, catering to children requiring special education, through its intervention mechanisms. In this regard, he stressed the need for the facility’s services to be replicated islandwide to ensure that these can be accessed by a wider cross-section of persons.
"The cry from the country side is that the students who need the services of MICO Care, because of the volume, have to wait a long time. And that, in many instances, the aggravation of the disability is acute because of the time it takes, not only to be diagnosed, but also for the appropriate therapy to be arranged," he lamented, hence the need for greater access by more persons.
The Mico University College CARE Centre was established in 1981 to meet the needs of children requiring special education in Jamaica and the English-speaking Caribbean. The Centre is a collaborative initiative between the Governments of Jamaica and the Netherlands. The facility is currently funded by the Jamaican Government.