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GO-JAMAICA'S ONLINE GUEST
JANUARY 15, 2003
MINISTER OF EDUCATION, YOUTH AND CULTURE, SEN. MAXINE HENRY-WILSON
TRANSCRIPT OF LIVE SESSION

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:11:02 PM)
Good evening Mrs. Wilson.
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:11:02 PM)
Good evening to you, and thanks for joining us.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:13:37 PM)
Jamaica has 60 Members of Parliament collecting approximately $2.2 million dollars per annum. Would it not be a better situation to have only 14 Members of Parliament who were not appointed to any ministerial positions? (This would allow Jamaica to save over $100 million dollars in salary given to politicians. This did not take into consideration the fringe benefits, which is paid out).
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:13:37 PM)
The number of Members of Parliament is determined by the Constitution. Any change in the number would require a constitutional change. The number of ministers is also determined by the constitution, which states that there must be a minimum of eleven ministers. I am sure the constitutional committee would entertain any reasonable proposal about changes.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:16:58 PM)
I would like to know what it takes to really get the schools to use technology to teach, it is apparent to that many kids in school have apprehension to the computer. Why is there not a computer in all the classrooms so the kids can see it is a tool, and not in some lab where access is limited
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:16:58 PM)
Two reasons (1) the cost, not only of the purchase of a computer and all the other peripherals but also the wiring and the recurrent expenses. (2) instructions through the computer require teachers who are IT proficient, while we are making this compulsory in teacher training colleges etc., we do not yet have the full compliment to facilitate this. What we are focusing on is to have cyber cafes and computers in other public places which will be used by children such as libraries. This will allow them to be more familiar with the technology.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:20:49 PM)
Good Evening Mrs. Wilson. First I would like to know what is the government and the Ministry of Education in Jamaica doing to provide free education to the under privileged in Jamaica?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:20:49 PM)
Currently we have what is called A Cost Sharing Programme. What it does is recognise that while there are many who maybe able to make a contribution to the cost of their children's education, there are many who cannot. What we desire however is that parents should take an interest in their children's future and go to the school and indicate their inability to pay. The government will then bear the cost of the child's education. Currently primary education is free, so is government run early childhood education, cost sharing applies to secondary education. The commitment by this administration is to begin the phasing out of fees to ensure that by 2005, no fees will be paid at the secondary level. This means that the government will be required to pay the full cost of secondary education. We have to ensure that with this new policy the quality of education does not suffer, and that the offerings and delivery of education at the secondary level is world class.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:24:12 PM)
Miss Maxine, if I may call you that. What are your plans to better the school in Ja ?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:24:12 PM)
This would take the entire evening to reply to this question. We now have over ninety per cent enrolment at all levels of the education system to secondary level. This is what we mean by access. What we have to now focus on is quality, making sure that our students have basic core subjects such as; Math, English, Science and we are also emphasising Information Technology. The performance of our students has to allow them to compete with their counterparts in the best societies overseas. This is now our challenge to have quality education and to ensure that every child regardless of the institution that they go to will have a good education. This is the plan that I am working on.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:25:39 PM)
Mrs Henry-Wilson, are there any new initiatives by your ministry and will it be targeted to the eradication of illiteracy in Jamaica?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:25:39 PM)
Yes. We are currently working on a proposal to widen the scope of the Jamal type programme. In addition, we are working to stop the current situation in which students leave primary school and cannot read, write or do math. You will hear more about this over the next two to three months.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:26:18 PM)
Maxine what is your outlook on Karl Blythe wanting to be leader of the PNP ?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:26:18 PM)
There is no leadership contest in the PNP at the moment. At the appropriate time the party delegates will decide.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:28:00 PM)
I would like to address the issue of the employment of teachers abroad. Who pays for the teacher's training, is there training free or do the teacher trainees fund themselves?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:28:00 PM)
It depends, but in each instance the government provides a substantial subsidy for all persons in public sector training institutions, whether they be in teacher training colleges or community colleges. So basically, teachers do not pay anywhere near the economic cost for their training.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:29:41 PM)
Do you currently have early childhood programs in place for children age 4?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:29:41 PM)
Yes. Infact, over ninety per cent of all children between 0-6 are in some early childhood facility. Yesterday in parliament I piloted the Bill for the early childhood commission and at that time I gave some details of the development of the sector and how we were working to have full coverage of the age group 0-6.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:30:39 PM)
What upcoming projects does the ministry have?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:30:39 PM)
We have a whole range of projects spanning all sectors of education. It involves improving early childhood, modernising primary, enhancing secondary and diversifying tertiary.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:32:55 PM)
MRS WILSON WHY CAN'T JAMAICA ADOPT A SYSTEM SIMILIAR TO THE CANADIAN SYSTEM WHERE HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION IS FREE AND PAID FOR BY TAX PAYERS. I THINK THIS WOULD ALLOW A LOT MORE CHILDREN TO BE ABLE TO FIND SCHOOL FEE.
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:32:55 PM)
At the moment the policy is that no child will be prevented from entering a primary or secondary institution because of inability to pay. We recognise that our education offerings would be more generalised if we totally had free education. However, we have budgetary constraints and we believe that it is not only important to give children access but to give them quality education. That is what will eventually allow us to compete with and be like countries such as Canada.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:36:32 PM)
Are there any initiatives on your part that would bring a complete reform of education in Jamaica?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:36:32 PM)
The education process has been undergoing a process of continuous reform. At the primary level the introduction of the Grade Six Achievement Test is a major reform which requires that students be tested prior to entering primary to determine their learning readiness. If they are not learning ready then remedial education will be done. They are then tested at strategic intervals in the primary system, and the philosophy is that by the time they get to grade six they should have the basic competence's to allow them to enter secondary. At secondary the major reform has been in the area of curriculum including the provision of vocational education and of some market skills, especially for those who will leave after grade nine. These are just some of the areas of reform. We are also working on teacher preparation, teacher accountability, and improvement of laboratories as a part of our reform process.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:39:28 PM)
Hi Ms Henry-Wilson I want to know if the govt. will be granting a waiver to the New York int'l recruits? Also will jobs be available for the teachers if they return home?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:39:28 PM)
I am not sure what is meant by waiver. The ministries position is that once the recruits satisfy their employment requirements that is they honour any bonds that they may have and give adequate notice to their schools then we do not have the authority to prevent them from taking any teaching position in New York or elsewhere. We will do our best to retain teachers. We sincerely regret any who feel that they are not wanted here, and hope overtime to ensure that all our teachers recognise that we consider them to be a great worth to our society. In relation to the recruiters, there are certain labour legislation that apply to them and this would have to be imposed by the Ministry of Labour. Our teachers are always welcome to return home.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:40:18 PM)
On the question of education and law in Jamaica. Representative from various states in America set up shop at hotels in Kingston to recruit our teachers. Why were they not arrested for not having work permits to carry out such functions?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:40:18 PM)
This is a matter for the Minister of Labour. I was told by the minister that he would be addressing the issue.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:41:46 PM)
In your new position as Minister of Education what challenges have you faced and how are you overcoming them
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:41:47 PM)
The major challenge was just the breathe of the ministry and the attempt to really grasp what were the priorities. I really just had to read everything, speak with the principal players and I believe that I am now at the stage where I can make the important strategic decisions as to what is needed to take the process forward.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:43:37 PM)
Hi minister why you and your comrade fool the Jamaican people in buying that the country is in good order before the election ?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:43:37 PM)
I am sorry that you have such contempt for the Jamaican people to believe that they could be fooled into electing government. I believe they made the choice based on what they knew was the best option in taking the country forward. We never said we have done everything, but we believed that what we have done was very credible, the evidence is there. Further, we were true to the belief that we had a plan to take the country forward.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:45:24 PM)
Greetings, Ms Henry - u talk about computers in schools when teachers still treat these tools as luxury items to be protected from children?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:45:24 PM)
That is so in some schools but in many the children are fully exposed to the use of the computer. Let us not forget however that computers constitute an investment and that it is the responsibility of the teacher that the investment is protected. What we have to do is teach our children that everything in the school including the computer is social property and requires the best of care. We have to stamp our vandalism in our schools.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:46:37 PM)
Why don't they bring in IT teachers from elsewhere just as other countries employed staff they require from other countries?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:46:37 PM)
We have brought in IT teachers and other teachers, but the question is the number and the availability of IT teachers. Remember this is a skill that is in demand throughout the world. Hence, we will never be able to have the numbers we require by recruitment from overseas. We have to try and train our own and train more than we need and that is what we are doing.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:53:14 PM)
Good day Mrs Henry Wilson. My question is can you justify the pay hike for members of parliament when so many persons are not even making enough money to feed their children?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:53:14 PM)
I do not believe it is a question of justification. There is a process for determining the salaries of public servants and of parliamentarians. The government gave an undertaken which it was forced to carry out that we would move public servants so that the pay would at least be eighty per cent of what there counterparts are paid in the private sector. This was based on a recommendation from a committee and the recognition that we need to re-attract to the public sector persons of high competence. A financial secretary for example who is really the permanent secretary for the Min. of Finance presides of hundreds of millions of dollars. There is really no counterpart to her in the private sector, and anyone who is even comparable in the private sector earns up to four times what she does. Therefore, to attract someone to that post we had to take the decision to carry out the recommendation of the committee and in fact the unions would not allow us not to carry out the recommendation. Now since the 1980s a relationship was established between the salary of the permanent secretary and the minister. This was based on the report of a committee headed by Mr. Aaron Matalon. The relationship is that the permanent secretary earns $52 or $1 a week less than the minister. Once an adjustment is made to the permanent secretary salary, an automatic adjustment is made to the ministers' salary and then to all the other levels including members of parliament. I think the issue is really that of performance and accountability. Perhaps what you should do is spend a day with a Member of Parliament and see the myriad of requests and demands made to the MP. What we have to do is demand that they perform.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:54:31 PM)
Research has shown that children who are proficient in the playing of musical instruments tend to perform better in Mathematics and Science. Do you have an agenda in making the school curriculum more music intensive, and if not, would you consider channeling resources in that area for the future?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:54:31 PM)
We are just at the moment trying to complete our culture policy and to link that with the school curriculum. I am aware of the research and we need to settle how we can integrate music more fully into the curriculum. This has already began with music being a real CXC subject.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:55:38 PM)
Many of the teachers recruited by New York City are seeking a waiver of the home country stipulation on their J-1 visas. This stipulation requires the teachers to return home after their two-year contract expires. Will the government of Jamaica waive this stipulation?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:55:38 PM)
J-1 visas or any other visas are not issued by us, but by the US Embassy. It depends on the term they are going to seek employment in the United States that will be a decision for the United States.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:57:20 PM)
Jamaican Education has a number of problems that really need attention poor salary and no resources?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:57:20 PM)
We have problems but we also have successes. The challenges are not only about salaries and resources but for example, what role are parents playing in the education system. The teachers can teach but are we insisting that our children learn? We have made significant strides in improving salaries where we have not been able to pay a better salary we have tried to give subsidies and incentives. I believe we can overcome the problems that exist.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:57:50 PM)
Will internationally recruited teachers be given their jobs back upon their return to Jamaica?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:57:50 PM)
That is for the teacher decide. No one will prevent them from returning to the education system.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 6:58:52 PM)
Great, what u are saying, Ms Henry, but how do we know teachers are allowing students meaningful access to these computer! in many cases, teachers don't know how to use computers!
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 6:58:53 PM)
We are trying to remedy the suituation by giving the teachers IT competence. If you have a particular instance in which the teacher is preventing students from having access then please contact me and let me know.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 7:01:16 PM)
Good evening Ms Wilson what monetary provisions are being made to encourage our teachers to stick with the profession?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 7:01:16 PM)
We are now in a salary negotiation. Ultimately we are putting the teachers on the same footing as their counterparts in the public sector. That means that once we have done the classification of teachers and match them against similar activities in the public sector we will bring them up to eighty per cent of their counterparts in the private sector. This is what we are now discussing and attempting to settle. I think it is true to say that over the last 10 years we have moved teachers into a fairly competitive position, even though we know there are still
Question(Jan 15, 2003 7:03:42 PM)
Now that a plan for free education in Jamaica has been implemented, do you think or believe that the quality of education in Jamaica will increase or decrease, also will there be a better incentive program for the teachers in Jamaica to make them want to put more effort in educating their students?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 7:03:42 PM)
I don't think that free education of itself does or does not lead to quality. It is all the other ingredients of education that will determine this. This includes the nature of the physical building, the plant, and the provision of good laboratories, classrooms, good supports for the children such as libraries, good delivery by the teachers, a relevant curriculum and of course there are some welfare needs such as nutrition, attendance etc. In relation to our teachers we need to continue to find incentives, but ultimately as professionals they also recognise that they have taken on a responsibility that they must discharge with a significant degree of competence.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 7:04:37 PM)
What do you plan to do about the vending problem that plaques a lot of our schools?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 7:04:38 PM)
The principals and school boards must remove them and stamp out vending. The management of the schools is ultimately in their hands and they cannot absolve themselves of that responsibility.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 7:06:56 PM)
My dear minister...what is Jamaica doing in regard to keep well trained teachers in the country as teachers are leaving every day by other countries some not because they want to leave but just for a better life.
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 7:06:56 PM)
I have answered several other questions on this pointing out that we are doing all within our power to improve the condition of service of our teachers. We will never be able to match the best in Toronto and there will always be a pull factor because people will always look to more developed countries. Remember we also have people who are being recruited by Jamaica to come to Jamaica. Its just a relative situation. Also remember that there are several complaints that I have heard from persons who are in the classroom from places like Toronto. So, again, its a relative situation.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 7:10:01 PM)
Good evening, from Boston, have you seen the need to use the high school education as a means of preparing students for specific linking skills?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 7:10:01 PM)
I think there are two philosophy's of education. There is the view that you give the students a general education certain at the level of high schools so that they can be flexible, especially given the realities of a global society which is characterized by the seamlessness of relationships between countries and the need for them to adapt. The other philosophy is that we need to be more skill specific in our curriculum. Both actually exist side by side in terms of our curriculum and offerings. Students are given some specific skills while others have a more generalist orientation.

Question(Jan 15, 2003 7:11:47 PM)
Jamaica is still facing major problems such as poor performances from pass educational ministries. What are your solutions to teachers who find enticing treats overseas that leave Jamaica as "brain drained as it is?
Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 7:11:47 PM)
I don't believe that recruits overseas leaves us brain drained. I believe that we still have high level of competence's and a number of persons who are effective in the classroom. It is not the first that our professionals are going overseas and usually they return or maintain their links with Jamaica which enhances our human capital.

Maxine_Henry_Wilson (Jan 15, 2003 7:13:13 PM)
Thank you all for joining this evening, I gather there are many more questions I will attempt to obtain them and see how I can respond to them in some way. I am really gratified by the interest in education. All the best to all of you.

Additional Questions? Email the minister: edumin@cwjamaica.com

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