Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Growth & Jobs | Jamaica must invest more in science and research

Published:Tuesday | February 18, 2020 | 12:14 AM
Claudine Allen (right), executive, member relations at The Jamaica National Group, and Professor Michael Taylor (centre), dean, Faculty of Science and Technology at The University of the West Indies, Mona, listen keenly to a point being made by Dr Glen Christian, convenor of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics for Growth Task Force, during the recent launch of the Forecast 2020 Conference.
Claudine Allen (right), executive, member relations at The Jamaica National Group, and Professor Michael Taylor (centre), dean, Faculty of Science and Technology at The University of the West Indies, Mona, listen keenly to a point being made by Dr Glen Christian, convenor of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics for Growth Task Force, during the recent launch of the Forecast 2020 Conference.

A senior bank executive is advocating that Jamaica invests more in research and science, pointing out that science and technology must become important economic drivers for the country’s future.

The recommendation came from Claudine Allen, executive, member relations at The Jamaica National Group, during her address at the launch of the Forecast 2020 Conference on February 6.

The conference is being organised in partnership with The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) and will be held June 9-12, under the theme ‘Science and Technology as a Pillar for Regional Transformation’. The Jamaica National Group is a major sponsor of the conference.

“Science and innovation are important to us now, as a people in this region,” Allen said, “Not simply to position our industries, including our financial services, to develop and compete more forcefully and effectively, but also to protect our countries from the real and serious harms of climate change.”

She noted that despite the numerous achievements which Jamaica and the wider Caribbean have made in the field of science and research, “collectively, our investment in, and the economic value we have extracted from, science and technology have not been great in measure”.

Meagre research budget

Allen stated that the Planning Institute of Jamaica informed that in 2018, the Government spent 0.7 per cent of the Budget on research and development; and from a Caribbean and Latin America perspective, a report by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization showed that approximately 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product was spent by the region, compared to 2.4 per cent by North America and Europe; and two per cent by East Asia and the Pacific.

“At the high-school level, interest and performance in the sciences and mathematics have also traditionally been low,” she informed.

However, Allen pointed out that the 2018 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate results showed some significant improvement in the performance in natural sciences, as 72 per cent of students achieved passes in biology; 60 per cent achieved passes in chemistry; and 68 per cent in physics.

The JN executive also lauded the Government’s move to push the development of performance-based STEM school to increase the performance levels in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as innovation.

Allen further noted that initiatives such as the Forecast Conference are positive moves for the country and the wider Caribbean, as the forum is targeted to promote scientific thinking, entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.