STATEMENT TO PARLIAMENT BY THE MOST HON. P.J. PATTERSON, PRIME MINISTER ON EDUCATION TASK FORCE ON TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2004


Parliament will recall that following the historic bi-partisan Parliamentary Resolution on education in October of 2003, I appointed a fourteen member Task Force on Educational Reform to develop the blueprint for the transformation of the country’s education system.
Yesterday, the final report considered by the Cabinet and its findings and recommendations approved. The Report is being laid on the table of the House today and I expect that the discussions which will ensue both in this Honourable House and elsewhere to be vigorous but conducted in a spirit of seeking to provide the best educational system for our nation.
Mr. Speaker:
Jamaica’s education is at a crossroads.
In an earlier period, Jamaica, as an emergent new nation, took on the challenge of creating an education system that would give the sons and daughters of former slaves the right to a sound education. Since then, our education system has passed through many peaks and valleys, witnessed many successes and some failures. Throughout the decades, we have changed some aspects of the system and we have introduced new policies and programmes in response to emerging issues.
The time has now come to go beyond reform. It is now time to look at the whole gamut of fundamental issues: from legislation to how educational services are delivered; to how stakeholders are engaged in the system and the financing of our children’s education.
In this era of globalisation and rapid advances in technology, the demands for an informed, enlightened and skilled citizenry are undoubtedly more compelling than those at the advent of our Independence. But these times are no less defining. We need a great vision and unswerving national commitment to move our country forward as equal and respected partners with the rest of the world and as co-determinants of the world’s future.
Mr. Speaker:
There can be no argument from any reasonable person that over the last 12 years Jamaica has seen the most far-reaching and fundamental developments to modernize our physical infrastructure. This investment has paid dividends as can be seen by a robust tourism sector, healthy Foreign Direct Investment and the growth of our service sector. Yet, an educated population is our surest guarantee of achieving sustainable development.
We are operating in a new global dispensation in which the conduct of business is ordered by the dictates of competitive advantage and driven by intense market forces. Trade fortresses are being created and barriers to free trade are tumbling. In the Caribbean, the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) is now a reality. This single economic space will provide new opportunities for Jamaicans but it will bring the competition closer to our doorsteps. Jamaica needs an educated and skilled workforce to meet that competition head-on.
In advancing a new thinking and philosophy for our education, one has to appreciate the role that education must play in creating a comfortable psycho-social space for our people as they traverse the global village, forming and participating in social networks and establishing fresh business relationships. They should be able to do so with confidence, with the same level of intellectual rigour and with the same set of competencies and skills possessed their peers around the world
In the words of that great Cuban Poet Jose Marti: To educate is to give people the keys to the world which are independence and love; granting them the ability to walk alone at the happy pace which is that of natural and free individuals. We have an obligation to give the Jamaican people these keys of love and independence that will increase their self-confidence and improve their self-esteem.
Mr. Speaker:
These are the philosophical underpinnings that dictate the transformation of our education system. In the new dispensation, our students will enjoy their learning experience and capitalize on the investment that the state and their parents are making in education
Our teachers will have the opportunity to be part of a progressive service delivery operation. We intend to sever the insidious link between quality and exclusivity by giving our best teachers the opportunity to share their knowledge with all students. Our teachers will help us bring back excitement, creativity and innovation to our classrooms.
My presentation this afternoon will outline the major recommendations of the Task Force and to indicate to Parliament the mechanism that will be put in place to operationalise the recommendations.
Recommendations of Task Force
Mr. Speaker: The terms of reference for the Task Force are set out in the Report. I wish to Highlight for purposes of this Parliamentary Statement four specific areas:
An examination of existing education and social policies and the 1998 KPMG Strategic Review on education;
A review of existing legislation and Regulations governing the management and delivery of education services and the role of the Ministry of Education vis-

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