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Opposition calls on Thwaites to clarify SLB preference for science and technology applicants

Published:Tuesday | February 3, 2015 | 3:46 PM
Kamina Johnson-Smith - File

The Opposition, Jamaica Labour Party is demanding that Education Minister, Ronald Thwaites, clarify the government's position on how the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) should treat applicants from science, technology engineering and mathematics, collectively called STEM areas.



Last week, Thwaites, said the SLB will continue its policy of giving loan preference to STEM applicants, adding that Jamaica needs more persons trained in those areas.



He says the decision to take this stance was difficult but a necessary one as doing otherwise with scare resources, would be irresponsible.



However, in a statement this morning, Opposition Spokesperson on Education, Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith, said equity and access for all students must be ensured.



She says the the Opposition is aware of the need to reform the funding of tertiary education.



However Senator Johnson-Smith argues that the government's policy should not be to exclude students because of their interests.



According to her, there is a better way.



Senator Johnson Smith says the SLB should introduce a loan framework which balances national development with freedom of choice.



She adds that this could be done by introducing different interest rates, bonding arrangements and repayment periods combined in different ways depending on the course of study to be pursued.



The Opposition Spokesperson says preferential terms for areas which are important to national development would balance choice and market needs, but would not completely exclude young people without interest or ability in STEM areas.



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