Education top Ja priority

The Jamaica Teachers’ Association is demanding that priority attention be given to the education sector during the general election campaign.

It is the most important policy matter up for consideration at this time, according to Hopeton Henry, JTA president.

“What is happening is that we are just getting a small part in terms of the issues on education,” complained Mr. Henry, during a recent Gleaner Editors’ Forum, held at the newspaper’s central Kingston head office.

Crucial to that debate, he argued, was how to accomplish the transformation of the education system, as recommended by the Task Force on Education. That task force, headed by Dr. Rae Davis, submitted its report in September 2004, with several important recommendations.

According to Mr. Henry, the discussions thus far have not been comprehensive in addressing the transformation process required.

“We are not going to be any better off because we need to move forward in terms of fixing the education system. We have an opportunity to right the wrongs and correct the problems but we are going to miss this wonderful opportunity!” was his plaintive cry.

Ruel Reid, immediate past president of the JTA, highlighted adequate funding for the transformation process as one of the most crucial issues to consider.

With an additional $219 billion required over ten years to carry out the recommended changes, Mr. Reid, principal of Jamaica College, suggested the floating of a special bond as one method of raising some of the money.

Additional funds

The only additional funds allocated for the transformation process, so far, have come by way of a $5 billion withdrawal from the National Housing Trust. Another means, Mr. Reid suggested, could be an increase in the Education Tax which, he said, should go directly to the sector.

References to education in the political campaign so far have been confined mostly to the topical issue of ‘free education’ versus ‘free tuition’, with the state being expected to take up these costs on behalf of students and parents.

Absent from this debate has been any acknowledgment of the task force’s assertion that the cost of education cannot be borne by the state alone.

“Other stakeholders, particularly students, parents and private bodies such as churches, must supplement the increase in the state’s budgetary allocation,” the task force urged.

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