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Student Achievement Focus of Education Ministry for 2014

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Education Minister, the Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, says student achievement is the Ministry’s mantra for 2014 and will be an important marker in evaluating performance at all levels.

“Every decision that we make, every course that we implement, every support that is given to any student, must be related to the outcome of student achievement, and we must value those who add value within that system and not those who mark time,” he said.

The Education Minister was speaking on Tuesday, January 7, at the first ever ‘Power Breakfast’ of the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ), held at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston.

The event provided a forum for interaction among leaders in the public and private sectors and those within the community college system, on issues in education and opportunities for partnership.

Citing a recent newspaper headline, which called on the government to initiate policies and activities to grow the economy, Mr. Thwaites argued that the surest way to achieve economic prosperity is the advancement of practical and relevant education.

“Unless we are prepared to ensure that we have a rounded workforce whose skills and attitudes and general behaviour patterns are conducive to productivity…then we cannot succeed,” he argued.

The Minister said that in preparing persons to play their role in advancing nation building, the various educational institutions will have to differ the range of skills offered; achieve a level of roundedness in the educational product; and ensure that every student emerges from the secondary and tertiary levels “with a sense of what it is to make their own living”.

He challenged members of the private sector to interface more with the education system and expressed disappointment at the lack of input from that group on the issue of educational transformation since he took office.

He said that the Ministry does not have an accurate indication of the current human resource needs of the economy. “We have some basic indications but we are going by anecdotal evidence and dated evidence and that’s not good enough,” he pointed out.

The Minister, in the meantime, endorsed the work of the community colleges in providing a rounded education for Jamaicans.

Chairman of the CCCJ, Quince Francis, said that the Power Breakfast was organized as part of the Council’s 2014 conference of activities from January  8 to 10 under the theme: ‘Critical transformations: Essentials for Community Colleges’.

The conference seeks to, among other things: engage education stakeholders in having bold conversations on current and emerging issues in education; uncork ideas on the transformation process; examine the management structures and quality of leadership within the institutions; further engage the business community in the mission to save Jamaica; and set the parameters for a college-extreme makeover.

Mr. Francis noted that if the transformation of the educational system is to be seriously considered, then persons must be cognizant of the roles that partnerships play, in particular, between the power brokers in industry and educators.

He pointed out that industry and the providers of educational services do not operate within a vacuum and are “interconnected at the core”.

By Andrea Braham

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