THE Ministry of Education will shortly be awarding 100 tertiary scholarships to individuals who are interested in studying and teaching mathematics and science-based subjects.

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites told the Jamaica Observer that the decision to make the awards came out of a need to infuse the education system with more qualified teachers in the areas.

“The ministry has now put things in place to offer scholarships to people who wish to study mathematics and science subjects,” he said.

“Too many math and science teachers do not have the requisite qualifications teaching in these areas which may very well be linked to students’ underperformance in these areas,” the minister added.

The scholarships, which are valued at $250,000 each, will primarily be awarded on a needs basis to teachers as well as those who may not have a degree in the area but are interested in studying and teaching the subject areas. National mathematics coordinator Dr Tamika Benjamin said the ministry is committed to ensuring that recipients are adequately prepared for school and will do all it can to offer further assistance to scholarship recipients who present cases of dire need.

Thwaites said the he application process, which opened in July, has since closed. Over 100 applications were recieved and interviews should have started last week. Seventy per cent of the awards will be made for the pursuit of mathematics, while the remaining 30 per cent will be open to science-based subjects.

“CSEC [Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate] and CAPE [Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination] math and science grades where [considered] along with ensuring that candidates have CSEC English. Interviewers are considering need, as also disposition for teaching,” Dr Benjamin said of the selection criteria.

She said the ministry hopes to offer the scholarships for at least two other cycles, and added that it has already begun exploring partnerships with the private sector for sustainability.

Awardees will be able to pursue their degrees at any Government teacher training institution. On completing their studies the ministry will assign them in the areas with the greatest need. Minister Thwaites said that in an effort to protect the ministry’s investment, a contractual clause has been included as part of the scholarship agreement which dictates a bonding period of five years.

In the interim, the ministry said it has deployed teachers under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) to somehow bridge the gap that now exists.

Jamaica Observer