Education Minister, Hon. Ronald Thwaites, is urging training colleges to ensure that teachers entering the classroom are qualified to identify learning deficiencies at the earliest stage of the education system.
He said research by the Ministry is showing that up to 20 per cent of the nation’s children have slight to severe learning deficiencies and there is need for these problems to be identified at the earliest stage, so that they can be corrected.
“There are cognitive deficiencies, which we are best able to handle if they are diagnosed early. There are social deficiencies abounding in our society, which need to be (addressed) at the earliest stages where habits are formed,” Mr. Thwaites stated.
The Education Minister was speaking on Friday (January 20), at the official opening of the International University of the Caribbean’s (IUC) Sir Howard Cooke campus in Montego Bay.
He reiterated the Government’s intention to give priority to early childhood education as a means of moving the country forward.
He said the country has been found “wanting” at this level of the education system, in terms of providing the funds and qualified personnel needed, and “it is to our peril if we continue this way”.
According to Minister Thwaites, billions of dollars are expended on remedial programmes each year and this money could be better spent at the early childhood level, when the capacity for learning is greatest.
He said data from the World Bank shows that money spent on early childhood education has a powerful multiplier effect and the value is at least 17 times greater than at any other level of the education system.
“Early childhood education has been the Cinderella of the (education) system. We have assumed that it would be taken care of by benevolent pastors and kind ladies. But we have never applied the very science that we know so well, that it is at the earliest stages of human life that the brain is most fully developed and the personality formed,” he stated.
IUC was officially founded in 2005 by the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands and has 20 campuses island-wide. It offers a wide variety of programmes of study, including education, business, hospitality, nursing, and community development, programme and project management, psychology, theology, and general studies.
The Montego Bay campus, located on East Street, is named in honour of the university’s retired chancellor, noted educator, and former Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Howard Cooke.
By Bryan Miller, JIS Reporter