JIS News

Minister of Education, Andrew Holness has informed that the contributions made toward the National Education Trust (NET), would be used to establish 45 secondary schools, in an effort to eradicate the shift system from the education sector.
He also pointed out that this venture would be the first to be undertaken by the Trust.
Addressing the Third Biennial Jamaican Diaspora Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, yesterday (June 16), Mr. Holness said that the main task of the Trust would be to develop and invest in infrastructure, which would benefit the sector tremendously.
“If you are going to look at improving the performance of the Jamaican education system, improving your teaching programmes, skills and resources.if you are talking about long term improvement of performance, then we need to address the issue of infrastructure,” he said. The Minister pointed out that in the drive for universal access, the shift system was implemented, and noted that it was very efficient with regard to the use of space. However, he said it was an inefficient system in terms of the output, “the quality of the output that comes from the system, (as) students get less contact time with their teachers; students are left unsupervised for a long time; students have to get up at odd hours, early in the morning, (or) late in the evening, sometimes to go to school and that doesn’t help the behavioural problems that we have.”
Mr. Holness said that building those 45 secondary schools was a means of capital investment, which would actually reduce the teacher-pupil ratio, pointing out that currently, the ratio was one to 40.
He stressed that another area which needed to be addressed was the teaching of vocational skills and the use of technology. “Vocational skills require labs; we do not have enough labs, so we are going to have to build more labs to be able to teach them (students). The sector also needs to have the technology to be used in the learning environment, to assist our students to fully participate in the information age,” he added. The main purposes of the NET are: to manage a National Education Endowment Fund; direct and co-ordinate non-financial resource, such as voluntary human resources, donated equipment, material and technology; act as the agency through which the government can execute its strategic objectives in developing and maintaining the education infrastructure, without being hampered by fiscal constraints; act as an agency which will interface with local and international funding organisations on education infrastructure development projects; act as the focal point for interfacing with the Diaspora on issues of education and national development; provide a credible institutional framework for accountability and efficient use of donated funds; and plan and execute a programme of school facilities construction and maintenance.
“The NET will be designed as the institution first and foremost that will have Government backing and support and the resources necessary to co-ordinate all the goodwill, philanthropy and human resource available in the Diaspora,” he said, noting that a website, proper database and proper contact list, would be established.
Mr. Holness informed that discussions were held with the World Bank for assistance in setting up the Trust, so that the Fund would meet World Bank requirements. “We are setting up an institution of the highest calibre that will have the support of the World Bank. We have also received a commitment from the World Bank, not to make an endowment, but to assist with a loan to fund the first year operation of the Trust,” he added.
The Minister implored members of Diaspora to support the NET in terms of its governance. “We are all doing something, but it is just not co-ordinated, it is just not directed.We really need an institution, an agency in which all activities can be co-ordinated. The institution will assist you in saying here is how you can match your resources to get the synergy and a more effective output and that is how we envison the NET to work,” Mr. Holness said.
The two-day conference is being held under the theme: ‘Borderless Partnership for Development’, and seeks to address issues relating to the role of the Diaspora in national development.

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