Prime Minister and Minister of Education, the Hon. Andrew Holness said part of the transformation of the economy has to be done through transforming the education system. He noted that the transformation by his Administration will involve making the education system more efficient and equitable in the coming year.
The Prime Minister was speaking at yesterday's sitting of Parliament at the Jamaica Conference Centre and responding to a private member's motion from Central Kingston Member of Parliament, Ronald Thwaites on the adequacy and affordability of loan financing for students in the tertiary education system.
"I understand that students may very well feel nervous about this. But I want to assure them that there is an alignment of views in the Parliament as it relates to how tertiary education should be reformed. No reform will be done to make any student worse off. The reform will be gradual and any reform will have a period of notice," PM Holness explained.
The Prime Minister said there has been a significant increase of loan applications to the Students Loan Bureau (SLB), between 2000 -2010 and also an increase in loans approved by the SLB from $4 billion in 2000 to $9.8 billion in 2010.
He said in 2000, the SLB received 6, 115 applications of which 4, 047 were approved; 1, 165 declined and 371 cancelled. In 2010, 973 applications were received by the SLB with 9, 899 loans being approved and 34 being declined.
Prime Minister Holness said this reinforces that more students are qualifying for tertiary education and seeking loan financing. He added the demand is increasing and the budget for tertiary education has not been increased. However, he said the Government is trying to source additional funding to increase the pool of funds at the SLB.
Mr. Holness used the opportunity to inform the House of Representatives that 67 percent of the Jamaican employed labour force is untrained while 19 percent has tertiary level degrees and the remaining 14 percent have technical vocational certification.
“This is something we must consider carefully because if you look at other developed countries it is the reverse. The majority of their labour force would have technical vocational but in our situation it is reversed. Reforming the tertiary funding system is not just to increase the admissions to universities but it is also to expand access to applicants who wish to pursue technical and vocational education” Mr. Holness explained.
He added that the Education Ministry will be coming to the Parliament with a comprehensive policy as was promised but it has to be integrated in all the reform measures that will be taken in the coming year.