JLP vows more accountability in education
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Spokesperson on Education Kamina Johnson-Smith has charged that a lack of accountability is one of the major reasons behind the poor out-turn of the country's education system.
Johnson-Smith was addressing members of the Gleaner's Youth Council last Saturday in response to its plea to whichever party that forms the next government to "fix our broke and broken education system".
"We have issues of access; we have issues of quality in teaching; we have problems of accountability; and we have problems of equity," said Johnson-Smith.
She noted that the Education Transformation Programme started in 2004 and most, or all, of its targets were set for 2010.
"To a large extent, they had to be moved again to 2015, and Education Minister (Ronald) Thwaites again moved the numeracy targets to 2018," added Johnson-Smith.
"Where is the accountability built into the system for not reaching the targets? We took $5 billion from the National Housing Trust to fund this programme, and we have taken billions of dollars more every year.
"I don't know which programme in which country or company for 10 years spends billions of dollars and never reviews it," charged Johnson-Smith.
She told members of the council that students were being held at ransom while the Government played politics with the education transformation initiative.
"To my mind, there is a gap in terms of saying, 'this is the target, this is how we are going to get there and this is who is responsible for getting there'. There is no incentive or disincentive for us getting there. We are all just going along without any transformation."
Johnson-Smith said that access to education remained a challenge for some students whose parents are unable to finance their education, even while they are academically capable.
She cited this as the prime reason behind the abolition of school fees by the JLP in 2007 and said that the policy is one the party will continue if it wins the general election on February 25.
Thwaites previously met with members of the council in response to its plea to fix the education system and argued that a breakdown in the social capital of the students was the main reason for the poor performance of some schools.
According to Thwaites, throwing more money at education would not necessarily fix the system.
"That's not to say that we don't need more money. Of course we do, but that is not the main constraint, and throwing more money at a system that is not effective is not going to really solve it," said Thwaites.
According to Thwaites, only about 60 per cent of the actual teaching and learning time in Jamaican classrooms is being spent on providing academic guidance to students.