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Higher education will soon be available at the Ascot High School in Portmore, St. Catherine,  as ground was broken on June 12 for  the construction of its sixth form block.

The sixth form programme, which is slated to commence in September 2013, will offer subjects in the Humanities and Science and Technology areas, as well as courses in professional development and leadership training.

Addressing the ground breaking ceremony, Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, noted that the subjects to be offered are significant and ties in with the policy direction of the Ministry.

“This is quite different from the traditional sixth form and it expresses precisely the policy of the Ministry of Education, which lifts up the academic subjects that are the traditional  (ones). You will be offering much more than that at an advanced level, because you will be offering technical and vocational studies and artistic and cultural studies,” the Minister  said.

Rev. Thwaites emphasised that this is of vital importance, as the 21st Century workforce job market requires not only academic advancement, but also technical and vocational competences.

“It is not one or the other. There are many of our schools, highly reputed ones, which do not offer the students the range that you have here. We have to shift our educational system into a direction that is compatible with the needs of the modern workforce,” he posited.

Rev. Thwaites urged other schools to “consider following this model which is so relevant.” He also encouraged students to choose their subjects wisely, to ensure that they are well rounded.

Meanwhile,  Member of Parliament  for South St. Catherine, Fitz Jackson, commended the move to provide higher studies to students in proximity to the school.

“This represents a realisation of the policy goal of having educational opportunities available to persons close to where they live,” Mr. Jackson said, in a message delivered by Senior Teacher at Ascot High, Shannell Talbert.

He urged the students and parents to play their part in ensuring the success of the programme when it begins.

As part of efforts to assist in the development of the block, Mr. Jackson and Rev. Thwaites both pledged $1 million each towards the programme.

For her part,  Chairman of the school Board, Pauline McKenzie, informed that the idea for the sixth form programme was conceptualised nine months ago.

“We are indeed proud of the achievements of the school. The achievement in a very short lifetime is something for us all to be proud of; therefore the introduction of a sixth form programme epitomises the seriousness to which Ascot High School has taken its responsibility to provide the best facilities toward the educational development of its students,” she said.

In his remarks, Principal at the school, Cedric Murray, said investment in the youth is critical  and can only redound to the benefit of the nation.

Ascot High is a co-educational secondary school for 11 to 18 year-olds, which was founded in 1997. The school shares a site with Ascot Primary School, Ascot Basic School and a large, multi-purpose sports field used by all three schools.

By Chris Patterson, JIS Report