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Thwaites wants initiatives at education ministry to continue

Published:Monday | February 29, 2016 | 2:00 AM
Ronald Thwaites

As he prepares to hand over the reins of the Ministry of Education, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites is hopeful that his successor will continue with the various initiatives that were introduced but which remain incomplete.

"I hope that the many initiatives that we have taken that are in progress, but by no means complete, will be continued by my successor, and I have every confidence that will be so," he told The Gleaner.

Some of the initiatives introduced under Thwaites' leadership, which are still in train, include the phasing out of the shift system; the merger of basic schools with the infant department of primary schools; increased spending on early childhood education; expansion of the school feeding programme; introduction of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and STEM academies; implementation of an enterprise school-management system and the Education Broadcasting Network introduction of a National Mathematics Programme; and behaviour-modification initiatives in schools.

FAR TOO ADVANCED

In respect of the Education System Transformation Programme, Thwaites said that he believed that the reforms instituted under the programme are far too advanced to be reversed.

The World Bank-funded programme has seen to the decentralisation of the Ministry of Education through the establishment of various agencies such as the National Education Inspectorate and the National College for Educational Leadership. The reform programme, late last year, also introduced the Department of School Services, which will absorb operational responsibility for schools, allowing the central ministry to focus on policy.

In his exit interview with The Gleaner as education minister, Thwaites has advised his successor to "be courageous and listen intently".

It is rumoured that Jamaica College principal Ruel Reid is to be named education minister through a reappointment to the Senate.

Reid has publicly expressed his support for the removal of auxiliary fees, a campaign promise that was made by the Jamaica Labour Party.

Thwaites, who was one of the most highly rated ministers of the Simpson Miller-led Cabinet, said his greatest regret in leaving the post is that there was not enough time to enact the legislative changes needed to facilitate more efficient teaching and learning.

The Jamaica Teaching Council bill was one of the most contentious pieces of legislation introduced by Thwaites and was strongly opposed by the teachers' union.

Thwaites contends that his task as education minister was no easy feat as he had to make tremendous personal sacrifices to get the job done.

"I hope that I have played some part in energising public consciousness about the need for changing the status quo and setting ambitious targets and fostering cooperation within the various sectors," he said.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com