Thwaites: Get active in your PTA
The following is Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites' address to the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica's Annual Conference, held Saturday at Jamaica College in St Andrew.
'Parents take the time, be involved' is the theme for Parents' Month, organised by the National Parenting Support Commission, an agency of the Ministry of Education.
The theme is appropriate because parents play a critical role in the successful operation of the education system. They do so in two broad areas.
First, studies indicate that children do better academically when parents are supportive of the learning process. That is, ensuring there is a structured time to do schoolwork, providing them with the necessary tools and keeping in contact with teachers and school administrators.
Parents, I implore you to speak greatness into the lives of your children and God will partner with you to achieve it.
The National Parenting Support Commission, an agency of the Ministry of Education, has been established to provide programmes to empower parents to carry out their duties effectively to support their children's learning. The programmes of the Commission are progressing, but they need your active support.
The second area of parental involvement that is critical to the successful operation of the education system is advocacy. The parents of the more than 400,000 students across Jamaica are a powerful pressure group.
You are a sleeping giant whose voice and influence need to be felt in the halls of power where policymaking is done.
As minister of education, there are many occasions when I would welcome the voice or views of parenting groups on important societal or education issues.
Parents have a potentially powerful lobby that needs to be organised and activated. You must be the ones that keep me and ministry officials on our toes to ensure the delivery of a high-quality education product.
The nature of a bureaucratic organisation is that it will neutralise change. After 10 years of implementing the Education System Transformation Programme, the education juggernaut has begun to show signs of improvement in administrative and education outcomes.
These include better school management, improvement in literacy and numeracy measured at the grade-four level, improvement in GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test), and gradual improvement in student performance in CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) English and maths.
SHAPE THE DECISION
However, this momentum could be reversed or stagnate if strong pressure is not applied by parents through your national organisation.
In this regard, the Ministry of Education endorses and supports the role and programmes of the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica. But we need to hear and feel your presence more.
I, therefore, use this occasion to appeal to parents across Jamaica to get active in your local PTA. Sometimes, issues that make the national news or reach my office never needed to, if the aggrieved parent had gone to the PTA meeting and helped shape the decision.
So, Mr President, one of the association's targets for next year should be the formation/activation of parish chapters. You will have to expand you training programmes to build leadership capacity at the local levels. The Ministry of Education will offer assistance through our regional offices.
I also pledge to meet with the association's executive on a regular basis, to be scheduled. In our ensuing meetings, we will discuss the involvement of PTAs in the development of school development plans. This process should involve parents as a critical stakeholder group and I urge school boards to see this as a favourable practice to adopt.
Of course, some boards of management are already operating this way and the ministry commends them for doing so.
I wish to congratulate the NPTAJ ahead of your 10th anniversary in the coming year and wish for you a successful conference today.