Dave Lindo, Gleaner Writer
MINISTER OF Education Ronald Thwaites on Monday declared that education in Jamaica is in a serious crisis.
Speaking at the Northern Caribbean University colloquium for faculty and administrative staff in Mandeville, Thwaites said the main concern of his ministry is not of the high achievers in the schools, but those who fall below them.
"The truth is, it is what is at that level, which constitutes the majority - that we are in crisis. The crisis is not only a pedagogical, it has to do with a broad swath of our cultural values."
Thwaites added: "No longer do our young people feel that if you want to make money and be prosperous in Jamaica that getting a good education is essential."
The minister lamented that too much money is being spent on remedial work in schools. In drawing reference to his constituency in Central Kingston Thwaites said, "Half of the children in my constituency that I have the honour to represent, all have gone to basic school, but half of them when the time comes to start grade one, they can't pass a readiness test."
"We have got to do it right the first time and stop spending approximately one fifth of our entire public and private budget on our remedial efforts, we have to stop that," Thwaites told the gathering.
He said remedial programmes in schools are too expensive with the career Advancement programmes costing the Government $800 million each year, while the Alternative Secondary Transition Education Programme runs into hundreds of millions a year.
"All of these are remedial programmes where we are trying to catch up on that which we ought to have done at the base of the education system and failed to do so," Thwaites said.
Commenting on the 20 per cent decrease in English A passes in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations, Thwaites said Jamaican students fell short in critically assessing a passage.
"Does this tell us something about our preparation," he asked. "Does this tell us that perhaps from GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) and before our emphasis has too much on memorisation. The lowest form of intellectual activity is to memorise, the highest form involves analysis and critical thinking."