'Absurd!' JTA president-elect flays funding model for education

Publication Date: 
Thursday, October 19, 2023

President-elect of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), Mark Smith, has described as "absurd" the way in which money is allocated to public schools in Jamaica, arguing that the funding model is not working efficiently in its current form.

As a result, Smith is calling on the Government to rethink its funding model for the education sector.

In making his call, he pointed to the education system in Singapore, citing how the Asian country has allocated its resources at the primary level, which he said has boosted the literacy and numeracy level of the population there.

"Something interesting happened in the 1960s and 1970s... In Singapore they spent a lot of their money on the primary level of education," said Smith during his address at the Association of Principals and Vice-Principals Conference in Montego Bay, St James, which began on Thursday.

He posited that, "Jamaica attempted to spread our limited resources across primary, secondary and tertiary (levels) in a manner that resulted in us not doing enough (in funding education)."

"We have to rethink and revisit how it is that we (in Jamaica) spend money in those areas," declared Smith, the current Principal of Munro College.

Continuing, he said: "We can talk about the geopolitical situation that occurred in Asia, but what is important is that... in the 1970s, Singapore had a populous that could read and do math at satisfactory levels.

"We (in Jamaica) still struggle with that," Smith suggested.

He reiterated that the current funding model in Jamaica, which stretches across primary, secondary and tertiary levels, is not working effectively.

"We call on our Minister (of Education and Youth, Fayval Williams) to look at what the funding model that exists is, and how absurd some of what we actually spend on students (is)," he urged.

In using examples to drive home his point, Smith pointed to the current sums being allocated per child by the Education Ministry at the primary and high school levels.

"(When) we look at the $2,500 grant given (per student) to our primary schools; that's absolutely absurd! And the high schools, (the sum is) $19,000 (per child)," the senior educator indicated.

"... And if you break it down, as I said to one politician..., 'Listen, at the primary school that's works out to around US$16 per year'. Absolutely absurd when you think about it in that context," he stated.

Meanwhile, Smith stressed that in the same manner in which investments were made in the newly opened May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000, similar efforts should be made to invest in the people of Jamaica.

"... I recently drove on the new highway. I won't tell you the time it took for me to get from Williamsfield to Mandela (Highway).

"I was looking at it (the new highway); it's really a mastery of engineering. I said, 'If only we had the same drive and enthusiasm to invest in our people'," he further stated.

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