EDUCATION Minister Ronald Thwaites says Jamaica will not achieve its Vision 2030 targets unless there are improvements in students' performance in CSEC English Language and mathematics.
Thwaites, who was speaking at a press conference at his ministry yesterday, said there was a "very disastrous lurch downwards" in Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate performances in English this year.
The country's workforce, said the minister, will be negatively impacted unless students are able to improve the standard of appreciation and of expression of the English Language and the capacity for understanding and dealing with mathematical concepts in order to be able to grasp scientific realities.
Thwaites told reporters that the pass rate in English was shocking, with only 46 per cent of candidates who took the exam in June getting grades one, two or three. This was down from the 63.9 per cent pass rate last year and 64.9 per cent the previous year.
Passes in mathematics also dropped, with 31.7 per cent of a cohort of 50, 000 passing, down from 33. 2 per cent in 2011 and significantly less than the 39.5 per cent pass rate in 2010.
Said Thwaites: "As we begin the school year, we are very disappointed in the results, and the country has to come to grips with this reality. We are too accustomed to mediocrity in these matters and we must insist on accountability at every level of the system to ensure that our results are better."
The minister said nation, teachers and the Government would need to find out our what were the causes of the poor performances in English and mathematics.
In the meantime, Thwaites said the Alternative Secondary Transitional Education Programme (ASTEP) and the Career Advancement Programme (CAP) were faltering.
He said preliminary figures from a study of ASTEP showed that a number of students in the programme were not reaching the required level to transition to secondary schools. Students who did not reach the required numeracy and literacy levels to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test had been placed in the programme to assist in the transition to the secondary level.
While congratulating students in the CAP who had performed well, Thwaites said too many of the students were not improving, noting that a some students were placed in the programme with literacy and numeracy as low as at the grade four level.
"I wish to return to the mantra of the ministry since I have come here, and that is that we must do it right the first time. I believe that the inadequacy of the results can largely be traced back to a less than optimal experience at the early childhood level, where the proper attitudes towards learning and the proper rudimentary foundations of pedagogy have not been adequately transmitted," Thwaites said.