Current Affairs

Current Affairs






The Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, has been making strides in its efforts to reduce the country’s illiteracy rate. It is estimated that 30 per cent of students leave school without the ability to read.

Speaking with JIS News in an interview recently, Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Senator Burchell Whiteman said that the Government has been reducing the level of illiteracy through intervention from the early childhood level to testing at the first grade of primary school.

Commenting on how the system has been working, Mr. Whiteman said, “as you move up the system you are going to find that fewer and fewer people are coming through either illiterate or not having the requisite level of literacy that they are suppose to have.”

He further added that, “while nobody can claim total success the fact is that the policies, programmes and interventions of the Ministry of Education over the past 12 years have been working to reduce illiteracy and they will continue”.

While admitting that the Ministry could have achieved more, Senator Whiteman said, “if we look not only at the access level of our young people to formal education but also at the output, there is no doubt that there has been progress over the past 12 years. I would have wished to do more but I am not apologetic about what has been achieved and I don’t take credit for it”.

“I take it as an indication that the administrators, the professionals, the Jamaican community all together, have made a significant assault on ignorance and have made significant improvement to the education process and systems over the years”, he stated.

Citing some of the achievements made, he said that the attendance level in schools has been improving with primary school attendance now at 85 per cent with a target of 90 per cent by 2005. 

Meanwhile, tertiary enrolment last year surpassed the 13 per cent mark and the aim is to achieve 15 per cent enrolment by 2005.

Mr. Whiteman added that the early childhood enrolment figure was 95 per cent last year. “This means we are on target for full enrolment by 2003”, he said.

He also pointed to the attempt by the Ministry to address the teacher to student ratio where a total of 200 trained teachers were placed in basic schools last year, in keeping with the target set in the Education White Paper of placing one trained teacher in each recognised basic school.

The Ministry also began the construction of a $12 million Literacy Research and Development Centre on the grounds of the Moneague Teacher’s College in St. Ann to tackle illiteracy. 
On completion, the facility will house eight classrooms, a reading clinic, a computer laboratory, a teacher’s office, a staff room and washrooms. 

“All of those factors are pointing in a very positive direction and we have received international commendation for our efforts and achievements as well. I think that in terms of stewardship, more could have been done but within the limit the system has performed well”, the Minister stated.