The House of Representatives last Tuesday began debate on a resolution brought by Opposition Leader Edward Seaga, calling on Government to immediately remove the system of cost-sharing from secondary education. The Government has said it will do so in 2005. However, there was an indication last week that both sides could be moving towards a compromise.
Today In the House presents excerpts of Mr. Seaga's presentation.
THE PRESENT system of education provides sound education for the top 20 per cent of the school population. Ten per cent more receive some passable benefits. The remaining 70 per cent receive little or no benefit at all.
What is the purpose of a Ministry of Education which for 70 per cent of the student population provide little more than a day care centre for students until time to go home?
The Ministry of Education spends 95 per cent on wages and salaries leaving five per cent of its budget for development. Five per cent amounts to approximately $1 billion, virtually nothing. Now we know why the education system cannot progress.
Time and again it has been stated that education requires 15 per cent of the total budget. Year after year Government accepts a target of 15 per cent but fails to perform. Allocation remains at 10 per cent of budget, grossly inadequate.
Fifteen per cent is the level of expenditure in CARICOM states. Jamaica is out of line. Jamaica is also out of line in expenditure per student where Barbados spends US$ 701, Bahamas US$649 and Jamaica US$170.
At present level, schools are graduating students 20 per cent or more non-literate; 80 per cent untrained and ill-equipped for employment.
More idle young people for the corners in the inner city, shop steps in the rural areas, roaming the streets or staying at home. No wonder teenage pregnancy is so high; no wonder our crime rate is one of the worst in the world; no wonder, young people turn to drugs. Don't blame the youth!
Don't blame the system! Blame Government for failure to provide a proper system of education. Blame Government for failing to put its money where its mouth is. Blame Government for failing to respond to the crisis with an education revolution. I called for an education revolution in the 2000-01 budget debate.
The state must assume the cost of education for all children to 18 years. The extra costs to achieve this would be: recurrent $3 billion; capital - $2 billion.
These new levels of expenditure would raise the budgeted expenditure from 10 per cent to 15 per cent revolutionising education for all.
We face a new world today, one which is intolerant of ignorance which traps our children in the shell of an old world by lack of a proper basis in education.
The bravest new world for Jamaicans to face now is to fully join the world of educated people, masters of the fundamentals and eager to learn. This is an in-escapable basic need.
If we can't help this generation fully, then we must help the next to lift itself up and over the shoulders of their parents by acquiring knowledge their parents never had.
Conquer this world of ignorance and we conquer poverty, joblessness and crime. It holds the key to all our problems.