Back-to-School Message from Minister of Education, the Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites

Photo: JIS Photographer Minister of Education, the Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites.

Story Highlights

  • We, as taxpayers and as family members, invest more in education than anything else
  • All students must master reading and math at the right time, which is Grade Four
  • A group of literacy coaches will be available to assist teachers in primary schools

Parents/Guardians, Teachers, Students, Friends of Education, Jamaicans all, good evening.

All of us agree that Education offers the best opportunity for a better life in Jamaica.

We, as taxpayers and as family members, invest more in education than anything else. This is why during the new school year that starts tomorrow there will be additional school places provided particularly in Manchester and St Catherine and, later on, in St James as well as in Kingston and St Andrew.

Also, during the new school year two schools in St James and Kingston will be removed from the shift system to facilitate better teaching and learning. Several more will follow.

School administrators have worked diligently to ensure a state of readiness for the new school year. But even at this late stage, should there be any major challenges schools are asked to contact the Ministry’s regional offices.

So there is opportunity to receive an education, admittedly not equal opportunity, for every child yet. But the results are not good enough. The system needs serious reform. This academic year must record some strong steps towards improvement.

This year schools must focus their efforts on getting it right the first time. This means that all primary schools will focus on Literacy and Numeracy.

All students must master reading and math at the right time, which is Grade Four. And for those who don’t, immediate steps must be put in place for them to catch up.

In addition to those literacy specialists already in the system, a group of literacy coaches will be available to assist teachers in primary schools, where necessary.

Numeracy specialists will also be available to schools for the implementation of a Mathematics Intensification programme.

If all our students are literate and numerate then they are better able to do well in other subjects as they progress through the education system. We have to do it right the first time.

Early childhood is the time for little children to learn shapes and colours; to develop good habits of discipline and unselfishness; to play and pray.

By Grade One, our children must be ready to learn, be proud of themselves, and be confident and happy Jamaicans. It is at this stage that they learn most of their life-long values and attitudes.

The Ministry continues to place emphasis on the Early Childhood Sector and has already absorbed 63 Basic Schools into the newly created infant departments in 50 primary schools.

In order to ensure that our children are capable of learning, the Ministry of Education is overhauling the school feeding programme, especially at the Early Childhood level. We want to have better nutritional content and using local farm products.

Government continues to pay for textbooks free of cost in primary schools and on a loan scheme in secondary schools; as well as pay the salaries for all members of staff and to provide a variety of grants to schools.

But, parents, you have a responsibility to support your children’s education by paying the auxiliary fee in secondary schools, and supporting the primary schools wherever needed. You may not be able to pay all at one time, but make arrangements.

For, notwithstanding all that the Government provides, schools need that money to procure goods and services that enrich the quality of education at your child’s school. Education is a good investment.

Jamaica has a responsibility to help all schools, so I invite community members to support, protect and care for the schools in your area.

You can volunteer to repair and maintain the buildings and furniture as well as to coach a sports team or help with the school’s security arrangement, even if you don’t have cash to contribute.

The home and community play the most important role in a child’s education. Therefore, parents and guardians, You must monitor your children’s study activities, ensure that they do their homework, and guide them in the type of entertainment they consume through television and other media.

Don’t quarrel or fight in front of them. Ensure that they display wholesome behaviour and attitudes –punctuality, simple lifestyle, honesty, church attendance, willingness to help one another, and avoiding early sexual relationships.

The National Parenting Support Commission, an agency of the Ministry of Education, is ready to help you to grow your children well.

Students, you, too, must strive to achieve a better quality of life through education. You have the responsibility to make the best out of the learning opportunity.

You must attend school every day, on time, and pay attention to your teachers’ instructions. Set your goals and stay focused in achieving them. In the final analysis, your outcome is your responsibility.

Education is how you will achieve your goals in life and become a productive member of the society.

I want to recognise the hardworking and dedicated teachers who continue to lead the mission for the nation to achieve development through  education. I encourage you to continue putting out your best efforts.

This year classroom discipline must improve greatly. Teachers and principals must accept responsibility for effecting school improvement plans.

I specially commend the more than 100 teachers who have volunteered to be relocated where they will contribute more optimally to the education system. We know that others will join the effort as we seek to better align resources with needs.

We at the Ministry of Education also have the responsibility to ensure that there is efficiency in the leadership of the sector. We pledge to provide you with the services that you need in a timely manner; and you, the members of the public, can hold us accountable.

The Ministry of Education is grateful for the continued support of the private sector, churches, alumni here and abroad, non-governmental organisations and the donor community.

As we strive to achieve a better life through education, those of you who were unable to complete high school will have the opportunity this year to enrol in the High School Equivalency Diploma programme that will be offered by the Jamaica Foundation for Life-long Learning.

My fellow Jamaicans, the future of our country lies in our hands; we can either make it or break it by the quality of the education that we provide for our children.

With, God’s help, let us make this school year a happy and most rewarding experience for our children.

JIS Social