Education plays a significant role in helping to fight crime, says education minister

Basseterre, St. Kitts, June 15, 2017 (SKNIS): During a sitting of Parliament, on June 14, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Honourable Shawn Richards, said that the government has recognised that education plays a significant role in helping to reduce crime.

“Be it at the primary level, be it at the secondary level, be it in terms of lifelong education, the reality Mr. Speaker is that 65 to 70 percent of persons who enter high school graduate from high school,” said the minister, adding that there is the recognition that there needs to be an increase in the percentage of persons graduating from our secondary schools, in particular the percentage of young men who drop out of secondary school; “we need to decrease it.”

The Minister of Education said that his ministry has embarked and will be embarking on several different programmes to help to bring the situation to an ideal level.

One such programme is the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Programme (TVET), which the education minister says that the government has invested, through a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), some $20 million.

“It is not that the government wanted to go further into debt,” he said. “But, there has been the general recognition that this TVET is an important part of the education and development of our young people. And so the government has decided to make the investment of $20 million from CDB for TVET programmes here in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The minister noted that different aspects of the programme will be implemented at different high schools at the Advance Vocational Education Centre (AVEC). He added that buildings are being constructed in Nevis to accommodate the programme so that whether the programme is being taught in St. Kitts or Nevis, there is a state of the art building so that all students can partake in the lessons.

“In AVEC, almost every week, every month, there are meeting because there is supposed to be an amalgamation of AVEC, Project Strong and Youth Skills,” revealed Minister Richards, who further revealed that a new building will be constructed there.

Buildings at all of the secondary schools will be constructed to accommodate the new thrust in TVET, said the minister. He added that vocational education will also be provided to children at a very young age.

“It is not all of our students who have that academic inclination and we must be able to reach those who want to specialise in the area of Technical and Vocational Education, but we are taking it even further than the secondary schools. At the primary school level, you are supposed to start learning certain competencies, which will help you, so that once you go into that area, you have already developed those competencies- a well thought out programme.”

Minister Richards said that this programme reflects that the government is serious about doing all that it can to educate young minds, which essentially could help to combat crime in the federation.

The CDB has instructed the government to compile a list of equipment that it needs for the start of the new school year because the programme is being rolled out, said the minister, referring to a meeting that he had with CDB representatives at his office recently. Similar discussions were held with the Minister of Education in Nevis.

Minister Richards said that the government is looking at making changes to the curriculum at the primary school level as recommended in the St. Kitts and Nevis Education Policy Review: Final Report. Part of the review states that “the country should determine which areas of cross curricula learning elements should be incorporated within the curriculum structure.”

It goes on to say “should the Ministry of Education adopt this recommendation, it is critical that broad consultations are conducted so that areas of high priority specific to St. Kitts and Nevis are identified. Because of its small geographic size and population, the country may consider, for example, that national identity is a key priority or because of the emergence of a gang culture among the nation’s youth there may need to be a focus on appropriate civic behaviour and civic responsibility. It is important that these priority areas be determined within the social, economic and political context of St. Kitts and Nevis.”

“That is a recommendation we are taking on board, starting to teach certain subjects at the primary school level, subjects related to culture. So that from a very early age, they recognise who they are, recognise their own self-worth,” said the minister. “We believe that when you put a value to yourself as an individual, you will in turn value the life of other persons. That is what this government is embarking upon. We intend to change the culture.”