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Story Highlights

  • Rev. Thwaites lamented that a significant percentage of Jamaican students are performing below par in English Language and Mathematics.
  • The Minister pointed out that approximately one-third of Jamaican students “are not doing well” in Mathematics, particularly the boys.
  • In relation to English, Rev. Thwaites said recognition of the need for competence in the language, particularly within the global context, is not readily acknowledged.

Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, is urging secondary school teachers and administrators to focus on advancing students’ competencies in English Language and Mathematics, where weaknesses in these subjects have been identified.

Speaking at Vere Technical High School’s annual prize giving ceremony at the institution’s campus in Hayes, Clarendon, on Thursday, November 21, Rev. Thwaites lamented that a significant percentage of Jamaican students are performing below par in these subjects, despite excelling in other academic disciplines, particularly at the external examination level.

“I recently got the results for the Caribbean for the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC), and Jamaica is doing very well. Some of the non-traditional high schools have come out tops in many of the other subjects, but we are not strong enough in English and the Mathematics,” he stated.

The Minister pointed out that approximately one-third of Jamaican students “are not doing well” in Mathematics, particularly the boys, adding that “they are not even passing …at (the) Grade Four level.”

“I am urging you (students) to take your Mathematics very seriously. Mathematics is the gateway to science, and science is where you are going to get the best jobs, the best professional upliftment in the 21st century,” he implored.

In the same vein, Rev. Thwaites acknowledged the need for the subject to be taught in a manner “that makes it easier for you to learn, that encourages problem solving, that encourages you to think and measure things in ways that are practical.”

In relation to English, Rev. Thwaites said recognition of the need for competence in the language, particularly within the global context, is not readily acknowledged and recognized by many persons in Jamaica.

He informed that the latest edition of the internationally respected and influential Harvard Business Review indicates that persons fluent in English stand to benefit significantly from at least a 30 per cent salary premium anywhere in the world they are recruited for jobs.

“If you can handle yourself (competently) in English, then you are immediately a step above everybody else. (I say this) not because we are scorning our Jamaican language…not at all, we love that language and it’s ours. And so, we need to be able to be competent in (the English) language,” he stressed.

Rev. Thwaites said that in recognition of the importance of English within the global context, the People’s Republic of China currently teaches children in the language for one half of each school day, before resorting to their native Mandarin. This, he informed, commences at the early childhood level.

As it regards career goals, Rev. Thwaites encouraged students to choose professions carefully while urging administrators, teachers, and parents to advise and guide them accordingly.

“We need doctors, pharmacists, engineers, electricians, plumbers, and phlebotomists. Make sure that you choose carefully, something that is going to (enable you to) start your own business or (secure) a job,” he stated.

Chairman of the Vere Technical’s School Board, Baron Stewart, underscored the need for parents to be integrally involved in advancing their children’s educational development, particularly during the early years.

“The role of the parent…is the single most important influence on their development. Research shows that parental involvement in children’s learning is a key factor in improving the children’s academic attainment and achievements, as well as their overall behaviour and attitude to learning,” he argued.

Mr. Stewart said that unfortunately, children worldwide experience an “uphill task” in their educational development as they encounter various distractions.

“The pervasiveness of the sexually charged culture, lewd music, crime and violence, have been robbing the children of their innocence. As teachers and parents, it is our responsibility to protect our children. We must ensure that they remain focused and stay on the path to achieving a sound education,” he noted.

The Chairman implored parents to provide a sound foundation at home by establishing the rules and boundaries “and setting good examples for your children to follow; show them respect and, in turn, demand respect.”

Over 200 students were presented with special awards for academic excellence attained during the 2012/13 academic year. These included some 157, who received the Principal’s Proud, Ambitious, Intelligent and Disciplined (PAID) Badge for attaining overall averages of 70 per cent and upwards, and 20 who recorded outstanding achievements in CAPE.