Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Jamaica's Education Minister Celebrates P.A.C.E Canada's 30th Anniversary

By Neil Armstrong

Diana Burke, a past president of P.A.C.E. Canada, left, presents a book written by author, Itah Sadu, right, to Senator Ruel Reid, Jamaica's Minister of Education, at the PACE Strawberry Social held at the Delta Toronto East Hotel on June 4, 2017. Sadu was also the host of the event.       Photo credit: PACE Canada

Jamaica’s Minister of Education, Senator Ruel Reid, says Jamaica has been credited by the World Bank as having one of the better early childhood education systems in the world.

However, he noted that there are some missing links to be addressed while endorsing the work that Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (P.A.C.E.) Canada is doing.

Reid was the keynote speaker at the organization’s 30th anniversary major fundraiser, a ‘Strawberry Social,’ held at the Delta Toronto East Hotel in Scarborough, Ontario on June 4.

Also attending the event was Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport whose mother, the late Raphaelita Walker and others who passed away were remembered for their contributions to P.A.C.E.

Reid said having appointed the energetic Chair of the Early Childhood Commission, Tricia Williams-Singh, her task is “to make the important connection to make sure we get the foundation right because all the investment that you’ll make in early childhood if you don’t get it right it is not going to achieve the desired goal and objective.”

He said colonial societies, such as Jamaica, did not have access for the majority of its people to education, and that at the early part of the twentieth century only about 11% of the entire global population were literate.

“And so one of the challenge we have in education is that there really hadn’t been a time or a template in how you’re going to effectively educate your entire population.”

He said in the 1970s there was a greater awakening in education in Jamaica.

“The basic school system was actually a bridge to begin to expose our people in Jamaica to educational opportunities.”

Reid said as the minister of education he has to do something dramatic to “make sure we get the value for your investment.”

He noted that in Jamaica today only 15% of the workforce have tertiary education, and a couple years ago it was only 2% in the English-speaking Caribbean who went to a university.

Eighteen per cent of the workforce have technical qualifications, and 67% have no secondary certification.

“And so to correct this unfortunate analogy we have to correct at the bottom so while students actually attend, generally, basic schools, that’s not where early childhood begins.”

He said would-be parents would have to be educated that there is a relationship between prepared and good parenting and developing a healthy and agile mind that’s ready to learn.

Senator Reid said they are now “preaching to the gospel in Jamaica the critical first 1000 days of a child because we all know by age 3 there is 80% of brain development.”

“There is a relationship between the development of the brain, the readiness for the brain to learn and overall education outcome,” he said, noting that part of his job is to educate the population about that.

The minister said he has to correct the aspiration – the big picture – because the world is in the fourth industrial revolution which means every Jamaican “needs more and more education, skills training and certification to be able to navigate this fourth industrial revolution in an age where we’re gonna have artificial intelligence.”

Sandra Whiting, President of PACE Canada, speaking at its fundraising event, the PACE Strawberry Social. Photo credit: PACE Canada

President, Sandra Whiting, said it seemed like only yesterday that Dr. Mavis Burke and a team of dedicated women got together to make PACE Canada a reality.

“Over the 30 years hundreds of teacher scholarships both in Jamaica and Canada have been disbursed; our Tech De Bus continues to visit schools; we have supported over 300 basic schools with everything from books, equipment to stoves and kitchen equipment-all donated by our generous Adopt-A-School sponsors and we continue our partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Scarborough.”

Awards were presented to Michelle Campbell, Delrine Jones, Ken Bowen, Sharon Wynter-Bowen, Dr. Vincent Conville, Nadine Spencer, Vivienne Nelson-Campbell and Patricia Gloudon. Paul Barnett was appointed a patron of P.A.C.E. and Dr. Ralph Masi received a special 30th anniversary award.

Founded in 1987, P.A.C.E. Canada promotes early childhood education with a special focus on children of pre-school age (ages 3 to 5) in situations of racial, cultural or economic disadvantage. Its goal is to mobilize and support community-based efforts to help young children succeed.

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