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JAMAICA — The Catholic Church, “with its significant involvement in education at every level”, welcomed the publication of the Patterson Report and its frank assessment of the situation in education in Jamaica according to a Jamaica Observer report.

“We support most of its analysis and recommendations as valuable and necessary to improve the quality of the system and ensure effective use of resources,” Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston, Bishop Burchell McPherson of Montego Bay and Bishop John Persaud of Mandeville said in a signed document March 3.

Following the release of the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission’s (JETC) report on the status of the country’s education sector, Chairman of the Commission, Professor Orlando Patterson, says the sector is one “in crisis”.

Speaking at the virtual launch of The Reform of Education in Jamaica 2021 report on Thursday, January 13, 2022, Patterson relayed that there are three main problems keeping Jamaica’s education system in a state of crisis.

The first is that, while the country has achieved success in terms of high school enrolment, this has been coupled with poor performance.

According to Patterson, there is also the organisational crisis that has befallen the education ministry and, lastly, there is the “learning crisis” which has resulted from being in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Responding to this, the Church leaders assert they support the need to address adequacy, efficiency, and equity of the funding of education in Jamaica.

“Although the total funding for education is comparable with other countries in similar conditions, the report points out that we fall behind in results and returns from this investment. We need to ensure that funds are not wasted but used to maximise learning at each level, and we agree that more State and more private funding are needed along with more re-allocating within the education sector.”

While they say they are mindful of the other sections of the report concerning the other levels of the education system, the prelates say the Church is “particularly anxious” to place emphasis on the pre-primary and primary levels — the bases of the entire education structure which determine ability to cope with post-primary education.

“Yet, they are least resourced. And the results can be considered appalling: At the end of six years of primary schooling, 56 per cent of the students cannot, or can barely read. Similar percentages cannot write or comprehend simple sentences. We cannot continue like this,” the document said.

The bishops said they are committed to working with the State to rectify these challenges at the pre-primary and primary levels. As an important part of that transformation, the Church leaders note the commitment of the Minister of Education to converting basic schools to infant departments of primary schools.

“We firmly support the conclusion that early childhood education needs greater resource input and that it should focus on socialisation, values & attitudes, and basic literacy and numeracy. It is the foundation and stimulus for building the education structure. In line with such educational transformation, the Catholic Church in Jamaica recommits to emphasise in all our schools’ affirmative socialisation within a strong, religious foundation — values and practices of self-respect, respect for others, discipline, honesty, truth, responsibility for oneself, and a strong work and patriotic ethic.”

They also called on parents to be more involved in their children’s education and in providing a stable family environment.

“We call on teachers to redouble their efforts, including through professional development, at getting students literate and numerate and able to contribute meaningful to our society. We call on the State to ensure that the funding support and facilitating mechanisms are provided to ensure that the recommendations of the report are implemented.”