Opposition Member of Parliament for Manchester South Michael Stewart has called for an overhaul of the education system, adding that more emphasis should be placed on teaching values and attitudes instead of focusing merely on academic qualifications needed to make big bucks.
He wants the government to relaunch the values and attitudes programme that started while P.J Patterson was prime minister.
“This programme was aborted by many naysayers who did not support the programme. Today we are reaping the whirlwind,” Stewart said during his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in parliament this week.
He stated that he, along with Opposition Spokesperson on Education Ronald Thwaites, has spoken with education minister Ruel Reid and other ministry officials about relaunching the said programme.
But Stewart said the ministry’s team has a sticking point.
“What has been their sticking point? To find out whether or not the programme should be called a ‘values and attitudes programme’. I say, while Nero fiddles, Rome burns. We need to get back on track.”
“We on this side are calling upon the Honourable Minister of Education to relaunch the values and attitudes programme. This programme must commence in the basic schools, the infant schools, and the high schools across the country,” Stewart said.
He wants the matter to be dealt with urgently.
“We can no longer wait for this programme to come on stream as too many of our schools are turning out students who lack the core transformational values – values such as honesty, truthfulness, respect, trust, forgiveness, tolerance, national pride, love and good work ethics – to name a few…”
“Today we are seeing where many of our students and young adults believe that the fundamental cure for poverty is money derived through ill-gotten gain, whether it is scamming, trading in contraband or robbing persons of their hard earned cash – or even committing murder,” Stewart continued.
“I daresay many of these things are happening because, as a country, we have lost our social, spiritual and moral compass. Our education system, which should be that guiding light, has failed many of our students in many instances. The family structure is weak, thereby compounding the problem.”
Stewart indicated that there is need to reconsider the true purpose of education.
“I daresay our education system needs a new birth, a renaissance if our society is to be rescued. Education must result in purifying one’s perception. It has to develop and coordinate moral and spiritual urges, and ensure good character while discriminating between good and bad. The educated person must apply the criterion of service to humanity.”
“Unfortunately, some persons support that education system which has as its aim, the earning of wealth [and] attaining a comfortable life of leisure and pleasure at the expense of others. That perception must change if our society is to move forward. The boorish behaviour in the schools, the home, on the street and I daresay sometimes here in parliament is not advancing our 2030 vision.”
“The late Professor Rex Nettleford once said ‘a butu in a benz is still a butu’. It must be part of our responsibility to change that mentality,” added Stewart, a former president of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association.