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Gov't dismisses renewed calls for J'can language to be used in school system

Published: Wednesday December 18, 2013 | 12:25 pm Comments 0
Ronald Thwaites – File
Ronald Thwaites – File

Jovan Johnson, Gleaner Writer

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites has rebutted the latest call from a parliamentarian that the Jamaican language be used throughout the formal school system to increase the competencies of students.


During yesterday’s sitting of the House of Representatives, Dr Ken Baugh declared that there is no reason why Jamaicans should be struggling to speak Standard English.

He also said Jamaicans are a people without a language as the culture has been affected by historical events such as the Middle Passage experience and slavery which also affected language development.

According to Baugh, children entering the formal school system do not understand the English they are being instructed in because it is not their naturally occurring language.

However, in responding to Baugh’s appeal, the Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said there is no need for the use of the Jamaican language beyond the grade 3 at the primary school level.

He said beyond the grade 3, teaching and learning must take place in the English Language which is the accepted medium of professional communication.

Successive governments have resisted the recommendations from academic researchers including University of the West Indies professors, Hubert Devonish and Carolyn Cooper, that the Jamaican language be used throughout the school system. 

Last month, Professor Cooper said plans by the Education Ministry to introduce an oral examination in English Language will not solve the larger issue of language competence.

Meanwhile, her colleague, Professor Devonish spear-headed a Ministry of Education-sanctioned Bilingual Education Project in Corporate Area primary schools between 2004 and 2008 that resulted in greater calls for of the Jamaican Patois.

Under that project, students were taught to read and write in both languages.

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