Investment in early-childhood, primary education is critical – Duncan
Keith Duncan, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and co-chair of Project STAR, says Jamaica needs to invest more in early-childhood and primary education to get better outcomes for its children.
“As a country, we invest a lot of money in remedial education when we are trying to recover [our children]. But where should you put the money? At the foundation,” he said, noting that this was one of the recommendations of the Orlando Patterson Report on the reform of education in Jamaica.
Duncan was addressing the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, held at the Hotel Commingle in Savanna-la-Mar recently.
“Divert some of the funding for remedial education and put it into early-childhood education and primary education, because we spend less money on early childhood when compared to other countries [in the Caribbean]. Instead, we spend more money on remedial and tertiary education,” he said.
The Project STAR co-chair pointed out that if there is a weak foundation, children will lose interest in education and by age 11 to 15 years, they are likely to migrate into gangs.
“So if they get a shaky education, they are not going to want to be interested in school, because they would not be understanding what the teacher is talking about and what is required of them. We have accepted the recommendation of the Education Transformation Oversight Committee, so let us act on it. Let us get some measurable things going,” he noted.
Duncan said that with Jamaica now facing a surge in crime because of the failure to invest in its people, the states of emergency (SOEs) are now necessary to save lives.
“Until you can invest in your people so that you can have different outcomes, SOEs are required and is part of the toolkit we have. But a part of that toolkit is also investing in our people. In the short term, until you can get control on crime, you have to cauterise and reduce the number of murders,” he said of the controversial SOEs.
Turning to the work of Project STAR, the co-chair noted that the project was about investing in people - the human capital of the country.
“We need social renewal, from the child through to the parent to at-risk youth … we need to have social programmes with a duty of care,” he said, noting that this would need to go hand-in-hand with economic programmes. According to Duncan, through Project STAR young people will be trained in social and technical skills that will prepare them for the world of work. This, he said, will be done with partners such as HEART Trust/NSTA. He said entrepreneurs in the selected communities would also be formalised.
“We are doing economic transformation of communities and ensuring job creation. But there needs to be a mindset change so this can happen, and believe this is possible - that we can be the Singapore of the Caribbean and that we can make the changes in our country to move in the right direction,” he emphasised.
Project STAR (Social Transformation and Renewal) is a social and economic development initiative created by the PSOJ in partnership with the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
Launched in July 2022, its key interventions include employment – job placement and certification - education, sports and entrepreneurship.