Jamaica looking to China to help boost education sector

By CMC

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Ruel Reid

(CMC) – The Jamaica government says it is holding talks with China on ways to significantly increase the number of young Jamaicans able to study in that Asian country.

Education, Youth and Information Minister, Ruel Reid, said this would be welcome, in light of the fact that “we also have dozens of young people who are teaching the English language in Japan [who] are part of a Jamaica and Japan exchange teaching programme”.

Reid said that Jamaica also has bilateral agreements with other countries to facilitate academic studies, and encouraged students to visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade website to get more details.

He said also the Andrew Holness government is implementing several initiatives aimed at increasing individuals’ access to higher education locally.

“We have sought to make it easier for you to get loans through the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB). The SLB has typically approved close to 100 per cent of loan applications received in recent years,” he said.

In a message read out at the inaugural GoHigher conference earlier this week, Reid said in 2017, nearly 100 per cent of loan applications received by the SLB were approved.

“It gives you a sense as to the endless possibilities and that hand of partnership that is being extended to those who may not necessarily be in a position to have the funds readily at hand to access higher education. The SLB is a waiting partner… seek to reach out to them,” he added.

He said that last year, the interest rates on loans for agricultural studies, engineering, information technology and studies in maritime and logistics, were reduced to six per cent.

“So if you are interested in these particular fields, opportunity is knocking. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is a growth area globally… so we are encouraging our young people to go into the fields,” he said.

Reid said that since 2016, more than 400 scholarships have been awarded to persons pursuing teacher training in mathematics, and further advised that the first cohort of 109 trainees will graduate this year.

He urged other qualified persons interested in teaching mathematics to get in touch with the Ministry.

Noting that Jamaica boasts some of the best tertiary institutions globally, Reid sought to encourage young people, in particular, to “take the time to find out what you can get trained in at our universities and colleges”, while emphasising the importance of training and certification.

He said the government’s decision to remove obligatory fees at the secondary level is to ensure that more students can access higher education.

“It is for this reason [also] that the Administration introduced a pilot rural bus programme, which was extended to 12 of 14 parishes during this year,” Reid said, adding that the government will pay examination fees for up to eight Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects for students on the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) who qualify to sit those exams.

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