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Early-childhood education a priority

Published:Saturday | October 22, 2011 | 12:00 AM

George Henry, Gleaner Writer

FALMOUTH, Trelawny:

Opposition Spokesman on Education, Ronald Thwaites, says the People's National Party recognises the need to revolutionise the quality and circumstances of early-childhood education.

"Some 50 per cent of the children entering grade one at the primary-school level in Central Kingston cannot pass a readiness test; and so many more despite the efforts of many of their parents and certainly most of their teachers do not make the grade when it comes to the Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy Test," he said during an address at the annual retreat of the Association of Principals and Vice-Principals at Breezes Trelawny Resort on October 14.

Thwaites noted that it should never be surprising when such students fail to achieve and create disciplinary and other social problems later in the educational process, holding back other students who are brought up to standards.

More funds needed

"It is not impossible for us to change this within our lifetime. Those who have studied early-childhood needs in this country know that between $7-9 billion more is needed on an annual basis to ensure the upgrading of early-childhood institutions."

Thwaites, while stressing that the matter is of concern for schools and parents, called for churches to play a significant role in early-childhood education.

He said that the principle and change projected by the political tendencies that he represents is that there must be an absolute priority given to the efficacy and quality of early-childhood education.

He went on to say that the issue of cost-sharing in education must be dealt with. He said he has learnt enough to appreciate, by listening, the agony which principals have in keeping the budget of their schools together, given the constraints of public finance and private contributions from students.

"It is a crisis if we want quality education. You cannot only be providing from the Consolidated Fund or from the various loans from international funding agencies. Those of us who are paying know that there is nothing free in this world that is valuable; not even love is free," he said.