Mon | Sep 24, 2018

PNP outlines serious concerns with education sector

Published:Friday | August 31, 2018 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Ronald Thwaites

Ahead of the start of the new school year, the People's National Party (PNP) is pointing out some of the concerns it has with the Primary Exit Profile (PEP), among other issues with the education sector.

During a press briefing yesterday at the party's headquarters in St Andrew, Ronald Thwaites, opposition spokesperson on education and training, said that teachers have been in limbo over aspects of PEP.

"Teachers have legitimate concerns about the Primary Exit Profile. The New National Standard Curriculum, on which the PEP is based, has only been introduced since 2016, and many teachers have not even been provided with a hard copy of it. The challenges teachers are experiencing include the way in which the training was done, and some of the teachers do not understand what is expected of them. They have complained about the inconsistency of the messages they have received from the various trainers," said Thwaites.

He also called on the Government to clarify the auxiliary fee waiver policy.

"The parents of Jamaica had been told that the payment to the schools is an optional payment, and in addition, there has been a waiver of such fees for public-sector workers. But how can you waive something you said doesn't exist? If we are going to waive fees for public-sector workers, please make sure that the money is in place for those fees before the beginning of the school year. The schools need it. The schools are not extortionists," said the former education minister.

 

EMPTY BAGS CANNOT STAND UP

 

Thwaites demanded that proper provisions be made to limit hunger among students whose parents can't afford to give them lunch money.

"It is undeniable that some 30 per cent, and probably more, of our children go to school hungry every day. Empty bags cannot stand up. Before leaving office in 2016, we began a programme that would have seen breakfast available to those who needed it, as well as a lunch programme," he said.

Thwaites also spoke about the problem of teacher migration and the implications for the education sector.

"We have lost approximately 250 specialist teachers to migration this year so far, and this is an ongoing annual chronic situation. The number is not certain because many teachers take offers and don't give notice and don't appear on the statistical graph. We are going to have to develop incentives that will encourage our teachers to remain in Jamaica, certainly for a bonded period, where they have received training at government expense. Differentiated pay, according to special abilities,

is an area of educational administration that we are prepared to discuss and come to a conclusion on," he said.

He also appealed to the Government to find real solutions to address the high failure rate in basic math and English, absenteeism, as well as the availability of public buses.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com