Source: Jamaica Gleaner
The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is planning to expand investments in digital technologies within the education sector while ensuring that teachers and students are equipped with the knowledge, mindset, and tools to thrive in the digital age should it form the next Government.
The JLP says it would complete the installation of broadband connection in more than 100 schools to increase access to education and connectivity needed to facilitate distance-learning objectives and has outlined additional phases of increased broadband.
“We will, train, integrate, and develop the blended-learning approach to schooling in order to ease the demand for additional teachers and classrooms given physical- distancing requirements,” the party says in its election manifesto. Blended learning is a style of education in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face teaching.
The JLP says it would expand the tablets-in-schools initiative, starting with the procurement of more than 100,000 devices for teachers and students and then building beyond that number with creative solutions that focus on access for students in need.
The JLP says it would expand the emergency education plan currently in place to train teachers in technological and online distance-learning systems.
“We will increase the proportion of the education budget that is allocated to the early childhood level, and we will priortise the provision of resources to the National Parenting Support Commission,” it said.
The party says it would move all public schools off the shift system with the construction of new classrooms, laboratories, and sporting facilities at the target schools and develop six science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-focused high schools that prepare students for careers in STEM fields.
In addition, it would develop a performing arts-focused high school that prepares students for careers in that field.
The JLP says it would review and amend the Education Act to reflect a modern and culturally exclusive position that protects children from being banned from any educational institution on the basis of wearing locks as an ordinary hairstyle irrespective of religious reasons.
That was in apparent reference to a Supreme Court ruling late last month that Kensington Primary School, located just outside of Kingston, may ban a seven-year-old from attending school because her parents declined to cut her locks. However, a school official was reported as saying that she would be permitted to attend classes come September.
As Jamaicans at home and abroad blasted the ruling, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said his Government would update the law.
The JLP says it would also prohibit public schools from charging mandatory auxiliary fees.
The party that among its support for university students is to keep them motivated as they seek to build their stronger foundation would be a renewal of the COVID-19 memorandum on existing students’ loan repayment continuing until the end of March 2021.
It says that starting in the 2020-21 academic year, it would extend the six-month moratorium so that new graduates would not be required to start loan repayment until 14 months after graduation.
It would also lengthen the repayment period of new student loans from 15 years to 25 years for certain degree programmes, including nursing, to reduce the monthly repayment burden; further reduce interest rates on student loans by one per cent; and remove the requirement for guarantors in student-loan applications for students transitioning from state care.
The JLP says it would relax guarantor requirements, needing only one per applicant from households benefiting from the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, the conditional cash-transfer programme funded by the Government.
“We will introduce a tax-free university savings account, where parents can save for university education and accumulate funds without the burden of taxation,” says the JLP manifesto.
“We will review the Students’ Loan Bureau practice of publishing photographs of delinquent borrowers,” it adds.
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