PNP inherited 'mediocre, flaccid' education system - Thwaites
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites is arguing that the performance of Jamaica's education system was below par when he took over in 2012, and is claiming that the People's National Party (PNP)-formed government is bringing about major transformation of the system.
"We inherited an education system, good in its foundation, but mediocre and flaccid in its performance," Thwaites said yesterday evening.
The minister and member of parliament for Central Kingston was speaking during a face-to-face consultation, with members of the public, organised by the PNP and held at Campion College in St Andrew.
Thwaites' comments come as the country's political parties prepare for local government elections which are due by June. Thursday's function saw Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, National Security Minister Peter Bunting, and Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke along with Thwaites fielding questions from persons on various issues at the Campion auditorium.
Thwaites told the gathering that education was "far too important to be part of partisan scrappings", and that his comments on the sector should be seen in the context of national development, "rather than simply party advantage...".
Thwaites took over the leadership of the ministry from Andrew Holness who served as education minister from October 2007 to December 2011.
For 18 years prior to Holness' stint, ministers in PNP administrations have overseen the portfolio.
Holness is now the leader of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party.
Thwaites said the last three years have seen "an irreversible transformation of early childhood education". He pointed, for example, to the decision to turn over 400 inadequate infant schools into basic schools and the provision of government support to teachers as well as nutrition for students as monumental steps taken.
"We have improved the cognitive ability and the assessment of readiness for primary school children, entering grade one, by 10 per cent and we intend to advance it by a further 10 per cent each year until the deficit of 30 per cent is gone," the minister said.
"In primary education, we have increased by 11 per cent the progress of our boys and by nearly 19 per cent the mastery by our girls of literacy and numeracy at grade four," he added.
"At GSAT we have improved the performance of our children in double digits. We have much more to go," he said.
The minister said further that at the secondary level, the number of schools on the shift system has been drastically reduced and that by 2017, the shift system will be a thing of the past.
He said too that secondary schools are currently offering technical and vocational subjects which will ensure that young people are ready for the world of work.
"Many times it is said that the Government is passing the IMF (International Monetary Fund (IMF) test but not the people's test. Today I affirm that a good education, available to all, is the ultimate people's test," Thwaites said.