The celebration of Commonwealth Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the unique strengths and fundamental values of the Commonwealth family of nations.

It is a celebration of our shared values, our commitment to peace, democracy and human rights, and sustainable development.

This year’s theme “Education: Creating Opportunity, Realising Potential” is a timely recognition of the importance of our shared value – that of educating our respective populations. We recognize that an informed and educated populace is the driving force of the social and economic development our countries.

In all our countries, young men and women are making a vital contribution to the growth, development and prosperity of their societies.

This highlights the need for emphasis on providing our children, particularly at the primary and pre-primary levels, with an early, solid and sustainable start so that they can realize their potential and make their contribution to society.

As we celebrate Commonwealth Day 2005, it is my fervent hope that within the Commonwealth we can promote a shared vision for our education systems – a vision which underscores the inextricable link between an educated population and the achievement of human security.

In a rapidly changing global environment, decisions about education and training in one country is increasingly influenced by international and global forces.

The challenge for us is to organize our education system and the delivery of services in a manner that will result in economic competitiveness and growth, and social development and cohesiveness.

Equally important is the need to develop our competitive advantage in the “knowledge economy” given the continuing advancements in information and communication technologies.

In Jamaica, we are developing and structuring programmes to build the type of human resources needed for the Jamaican economy and to accommodate the free movement of people and labour migration.

Like Jamaica, the Commonwealth has long recognized that its future lies with its young people.

Within this context, new initiatives are being developed to foster vocational education and training to raise standards of living in developing Commonwealth countries as the Organization seeks to maintain and strengthen its influence in the international arena.

The Commonwealth, however, has a role to play in creating job opportunities for young people in order to improve their standards of living if the potential of the modern Commonwealth is to be realized.

In celebrating Commonwealth Day 2005, it is also important to reflect on Jamaica’s tradition of association with, and membership in the organization.

In this regard, Jamaica has benefited enormously from opportunities to share experiences, best practices, skills and information across international boundaries.

This has been of particular relevance in the areas of local government, debt management, public sector reform, the “digital divide”, the concerns of young people, aquaculture, tourism planning, science and technology and human resource development.

On behalf of the government and people of Jamaica, I take this opportunity to reaffirm Jamaica’s continued commitment to Commonwealth values and principles as we acknowledge that the greatest potential for development lies in education – the single most important mechanism for “Creating Opportunity, Realising Potential”.

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