December 4, 2022

THE GOVERNMENT has taken the first of many steps to reshape the Jamaican society into a top-tier gross domestic product (GDP) generator with the launch of the first of six high-tech academies that is expected to develop talents that can capitalise on high-value opportunities in technology and engineering globally.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says the aim is to make Jamaica a producer of technology and engineering solutions rather than a consumer.

“Technology changes everything, and as we progress and as we develop technology, it is the nations that develop technology, but more importantly the nations that own technology, that own the future,” he said.

The prime minister said that if Jamaica is to thrive and succeed in the fourth industrial revolution, the Government needs to produce a “new Jamaica” that will, in return, produce citizens of a new world.

Holness was speaking at the official landmark ceremony for the first-ever science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) academy in Jamaica at Dunbeholden, Bernard Lodge, St Catherine, on Tuesday.

This will be the first of six STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and one performing arts secondary institutions with a total investment of US

$133 million.

The development of the schools will include a number of components, including institutional strengthening, appointment of the school’s governing body, implementation of information and communications technology (ICT) support, teacher training in STEAM to provide the necessary courses, and expansion of teacher expertise in the sector. The lion’s share of US$115.2 million will be spent on developing the physical infrastructure of these schools.

The first academy is being constructed on lands which fall within the Government’s Greater Bernard Lodge Development Plan, on 76.62 acres which has been set aside for social services and open spaces out of a total acreage of 5,397.02.

Fayval Williams, minister of education and youth, in her remarks said that the project was one of the legacy projects that the Government hopes to implement for the advancement of the society in the country’s 60th year of Independence.

“I’m really, really excited for what this means in preparing Jamaican students for current and emerging jobs as well as in helping them in developing their own innovative and critical thinking skills to carve new niches,” she said.

Williams stated that the education ministry had recorded an increase in the number of students interested in STEAM programmes. She said the ministry anticipates an enrolment of some 2,400 students once the STEAM academy’s construction is completed.

Ryan Reid, chairman of the National Education Trust (NET), which is spearheading the project, said that the six academies will be climate resilient, sustainable and technology-driven with a STEAM curriculum.

Cecelia Rowe, principal of Innswood High School, told The Gleaner that she was excited about the development.

“I always believed that there was a need in this area for more secondary schools and it is very relevant at this time to know that a STEAM school [will be implemented],” she said.

Fitz Jackson, member of parliament for St Catherine Southern, stated that “any educational development facility is something that I have an uncompromising support for … because for many of us Jamaicans who come from humble beginnings, it is only through education that we can break the cycle of poverty. Persons can realise their dreams and ultimately our communities and Jamaica can be transformed,” he said.

asha.wilks@gleanerjm.com

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