Good evening, parents, teachers, learners, administrators, Jamaicans, all. It is that time of year again, when, tomorrow the metaphorical school bell will ring… and Jamaica goes back to school. Pencils are well pointed, bags are packed heavy with books , and uniforms sharply pleated for the first day. Curious minds, will be met by steady and safe hands in the school . Despite difficult economic times ,the Ministry of Education has done everything within our power to ensure a smooth start to the school year.
As it was for many in the past, so it continues to be today, access to education is the pathway to the Jamaican Dream: whether that dream is expressed in material acquisitions, improvement in one's physical and social station in life, or just personal happiness, fulfillment and liberation of the mind, education is the vehicle of upward mobility.
By now, it should be beyond debate that the education system in Jamaica is not uniformly being the vehicle of upward mobility for all Jamaicans. Undoubtedly, some students are well served with expanded life opportunities by virtue of accessing education in a school that satisfies their needs and enhances their strengths. Sadly, too many Jamaican students end up in dysfunctional schools that are not able to serve their needs, and their talents and strengths are wasted, lost to the society forever. While we have for many generations faithfully engaged in this ritual of sending our children back to school, with the hope of advancing their life chances, fulfilling our dreams for them and their own aspirations for themselves, we still see:
many students leaving primary school at grade 6 not literate at grade 4 standards.
a significant number of students not attaining a general education standard to earn them a place in a full high school, or being able to manage a full high school curriculum if they were placed there.
Too many students completing high school functionally illiterate, maladjusted, unexposed and unprepared for the challenges of a modern economy, adulthood and citizenship.
Our education system has been functioning like this for many decades. From an economic perspective it has contributed to Jamaica's wide income inequality, low productivity, and large number of uncertified and unskilled workers in our labour force. From a social perspective it has contributed to creating a dual society reinforcing uptown values versus downtown values, it has fed the street corners with recruits for gangs and crime, while at the same time turning out some of the brightest minds in the World.
View entire script or Watch video footage of Minister Holness' Address