NOTES FOR ADDRESS BY MOST HON. P.J. PATTERSON, PRIME MINISTER AT THE AWARD CEREMONY FOR PRIME MINISTER’S MEDAL OF APPRECIATION FOR TEACHERS


It is a great pleasure and privilege to be host of this special event – the presentation ceremony for the recipients of the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Teachers.
If like me, anyone present here this evening had a mother who was the source of their inspiration for a fulfilling life of service to country, a source of learning to respect every human being no matter their status in life, you will understand that when I honour a Teacher I do so with very special memories of my own dear mother who was a Teacher by avocation.
Despite the many challenges we have faced over the past decade and a half, we have continued to invest a high proportion of our non-debt expenditure of the Budget on education. With the help of the entire sector, we have improved significantly access to education at all levels for all groups. But we are aware that the outcome of the education system is disappointingly below what is required for us to become globally competitive and to move more and more of our people out of poverty. We must take a great leap forward in the education system.
The implementation of the comprehensive and all-inclusive recommendations of the Transformation Task Force offers much promise for the education system, for all who serve in the sector, for the children of Jamaica and the entire society.
It is the dedicated team in the sector on whom the entire nation relies to shape the minds of our young. It is Education – formal, and informal – that is the most effective means of shaping the values, attitudes, behaviours and skills which make it possible for us to achieve a socially cohesive society.
To achieve the desired outcomes, we must have a higher level of investment in the development of quality human capital, with particular emphasis on early childhood education, while ensuring adequate resources for other levels of the system.
I instituted this Medal Of Appreciation in order for the nation to pay special tribute during Education Week to some of the many teachers who have excelled in their contribution to education.
The teaching profession is a noble calling. I recall the profound influence of my own teachers in my career and entire life. Traditionally, teachers have been the major influence on the young outside of the home. It is the teachers who interface with our children for so many hours a day and who play perhaps the most critical role.
We recognise that in Jamaica today, our teachers are called upon to give extra service as in many cases where the family environment is not ideal and not as supportive as in former years.
In those cases, the teacher has become not only the prime source of instilling in the children the critical thinking skills that will help them to make the choices consonant with their own potential – their own growth and development, as well as that of the entire society. It falls to the teacher to help, often in partnership with the extended family, the Church and the community, to instill the civility, generosity of spirit and plain good manners so necessary for a successful and fulfilling life.
While education cannot solve all our society’s problems, it must provide the key to cultural awareness and help to bring about sustained improvements in the quality of life for all.
We realise that the nation continues to call on our teachers to give service beyond the call of duty. Both teachers and students need the enthusiastic support of the entire nation!
That is why we are making new financial arrangements to assist our children to meet the expenses of their education.
That is why the general programmatic intervention will proceed apace as we implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Education Reform.
Some have suggested that we should reduce our financial allocation for tertiary education in order to put more resources into the lower grades. While it is possible over time to reduce the percentage of the total education budget directed to that level, we cannot now reduce the nominal amount allocated.
Existing infrastructure must be maintained and it will be neither possible nor desirable to totally shift that financial burden to the students. Beside, our Teacher Training Colleges must be equipped to produce graduates suited and equipped for the Transformation mission.
A recent study by Dr. Patricia Anderson has shown that tertiary education is being increasingly accessed by students from poor and lower income families. As an Administration and indeed a society, we will not put this access out of reach of the poor and low income students. Although much can be done in terms of improved targeting of subsidies, it remains our goal to have an increased number of students from poor families in our universities and colleges. They will need financial help to take advantage of access at the tertiary level. That is how we promote social mobility. That is how we lift people out of the poverty cycle.
The decision to allocate financial resources from the revenues of the National Housing Trust (NHT) to the transformation process has aroused considerable public interest and comment. Many of these question the efficacy of utilizing NHT resources to fund development in the seemingly unconnected social sector of education development.
The NHT has demonstrated exceptional performance in fulfilling its mandate and mission in the provision of affordable housing solutions. The organisation has generated invaluable lessons to be learned in regard to the mobilisation of domestic savings.
We cannot invest purely in steel and cement. We must be prepared to make a massive investment in our human resources to develop our human capital. The NHT must be allowed a broader scope for a strategic intervention which can accelerate national development through a quality education system.
As the implementation of the Task Force recommendations begins, there are some important improvements which we intend to fast track. The intention is to allow teachers and students alike to benefit from the upgrading and expansion of physical facilities in hundreds of our schools as soon as practicable.
Between now and September this year, we intend to pull out all the stops to ensure that we complete our planned programme of creating a better teaching and learning environment in our schools.
We plan to upgrade and expand the physical facilities in approximately 200 schools. This includes the refurbishing of sanitation, water supply, electrical works and canteen facilities. This will be done with the close collaboration of the Office of National Reconstruction (ONR). This is expected to cost some $700 million.
Furniture will also be procured for some 600 schools at a cost of some $500 million.
Additionally, eleven high schools will be expanded to provide 2,400 additional places with each school receiving two to four additional classrooms. Three will receive full science labs. All this by September this year!
This evening, we honour a number of our teachers who in the fine tradition of the profession in this blessed island have dedicated so many years of their lives to the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds and slaking their thirst for knowledge.
It has been said that the mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
This evening we pay tribute to the great teachers who have inspired hundreds of our young and prepared them to meet the challenges of life.
It was the famous Carl Gustav Jung who said:”An understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”
I express my heartfelt thanks and deep appreciation to all the honorees for the warmth you provided our children. I also say thank you to all the family members and friends who provided you with the love and support you needed as you gave outstanding service.
I thank you on behalf of your students past and present and on behalf of a grateful nation. You have been that vital element in the lives of the hundreds of children whom you have influenced for good and who have benefited from your dedication, commitment, love and care.

JIS Social