JIS News

One hundred per cent literacy, equal education opportunities for all and free education at all levels, were some of the visions put forward by students who attended the March 5 education roundtable discussion at the Altamont Court Hotel in Kingston.
The roundtable discussion, which is an initiative of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture and is aimed at reforming the education sector, was the first being held for students.
Close to 20 schools across the island, from the primary to tertiary levels, were represented at the session. The students were asked by the facilitators to state what in their opinion, would be the most important achievement of the education system in 2014.
Among the common visions expressed by the students were that Jamaica should be able to boast the best early childhood education system in the world, it should also be the education capital of the world, and the country should have a student: teacher ratio of one to 15.
The students put forward the view that: the sector should have highly trained teachers who would help children to excel; there should be equal educational opportunities for all; excellent sustainable education system; free education at all levels resulting in worldwide recognition of the education system; a completely literate and numerate society; and a holistic development of the individual with education being the impetus to societal development.
Asked what were some of the important measures that Government should put in place within the next six to 12 months to achieve these goals, the students suggested that teachers should be held accountable for the performance of students; that more money should be allocated to the sector by the Government; and that teachers should be properly compensated to attract the most qualified persons to the classroom.
Meanwhile, parents were challenged to become more involved in their children’s education and the students called on the Church and business community to invest in the schools in their areas.
Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Maxine Henry Wilson, who was present at the session, commended the students for their participation and assured them that their suggestions would be taken “very seriously”.
Commenting on some of the issues raised by the students, State Minister in the Ministry, Dr. Donald Rhodd said, “I think that based on what has been put on the table a lot of them are achievable”.
Marguerite Orane, management consultant and organizer of the session said, “the students have been absolutely wonderful. The ideas that are coming out shows that they understand very clearly the link between education and societal development, education and the economy, and education and the individual. They are very clear. They are thinking about education in a very holistic way.”
She further stated that the students were very clear as to what they wanted to achieve adding that, “I do notice that they are a lot clearer in terms of their expectations. They have very high expectations”.
Diego Morris, President of the National Secondary Students Council, said that the roundtable discussions was beneficial and pointed out that the suggestions put forward by the students were valuable.
“Any suggestion that comes from a student as it relates to their welfare or them benefiting from it (education) is very important and I think that the effort should be made to make sure that suggestions are followed up on and at least if they are not attainable, they should be tried,” he stated.
Friday’s roundtable discussion marked the sixth in a series of eight being across the island to get consensus around a shared vision for the development of the education sector. The results from these sessions will inform the Prime Minister’s 14-member Education Task Force, as that group undertakes a thorough review of the education system to enable changes to be effected as early as September this year.
The final two sessions are scheduled for Thursday, March 11 at the Almond Tree Restaurant in Ocho Rios, and on Friday, March 12 at the Golf View Hotel in Mandeville, Manchester.