Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Gov't moving to reduce school drop-out rate
Observer Reporter
Tuesday, November 12, 2002



HENRY-WILSON ... it is urgent that we should prevent others from joining this cycle of poverty

EDUCATION Minister Maxine Henry-Wilson has said that the ministry would be putting measures in place to reduce the number of high school drop-outs.

The plan, she said, includes the development of pre-vocational and remedial programmes for this segment of the population, mostly made up of 16 year-olds. "It must be an urgent challenge for the entire education system," the minister said.

"Further, it is urgent that we should prevent others from joining this cycle of poverty," she added.

The minister was speaking at the HEART Trust's 20th anniversary awards at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

She said a significant number of students were not completing secondary education and were "at indisputable risk for unemployment and poverty".

The minister noted that this group "cannot usually be integrated directly into mainstream vocational training".

The new education minister also noted the structural changes which had taken place in the Jamaican job market since the formation of HEART/NTA, which she said would have profound implications for training.

Highlighting changes in the job market, between 1991 and 1999, Henry-Wilson said that the retailing and tourism industries had grown from 170,000 to 200,000 jobs. Over the same period, the construction industry grew from 50,000 to 84,000 jobs. However, the agriculture and manufacturing industries lost 44,000 and 20,000 jobs respectively.

The minister also noted that widespread downsizing resulted in job losses for several line personnel and middle managers.

"Hence," she pointed out, "the very nature of our economy has changed from being a primary producer, to one in which tertiary services employ 64 per cent of the workforce."

She said that the characteristics of the new workforce were best summarised in the words of the profile of the Ideal Citizen Worker, contained in the communiqué from the Heads of Government meeting of the Caribbean Community in 1997.

This Ideal Citizen Worker is capable of: seizing the economic opportunities which the global environment is presenting; demonstrating multiple literacies including foreign language skills; independent critical thinking and taking advantage of opportunities to control and improve their mental, physical, social and spiritual well-being.