Chairman of the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission, Professor Orlando Patterson, says the total cost of recovery from COVID-19 for Jamaica's educational sector will be in the region of J$2.5 billion annually for two years.
And he is warning that inaction could cost some US$5.5 billion.
Patterson, who is a John Cowles Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, said this projection is in keeping with estimates from the World Bank.
“COVID has been a calamity for our students, as you know, and it has exacerbated the existing problems of equity. The cost of recovery will be great. The World Bank estimates that the total cost of recovery will be something in the order of J$2.5 billion annually for two years, but we better do it, because the cost of inaction, the World Bank estimates, will be in the in the region of US$5.5 billion, which will be unevenly more by the population,” Patterson said.
Patterson was speaking at the virtual launch of The Reform of Education in Jamaica 2021 report today.
He continued, “So we can choose between spending this extra amount up front now of only $2.5 billion to make up back for what we've lost or we can not do it or not do it efficiently and end up with a final cost of US$5.5 billion. It's a no brainer of what we should do.”
He also emphasised that in addition to the COVID-19 crisis, Jamaica's educational sector is in “a crisis of poor performance and an organisational crisis”.
“The World Bank calls this 'A Learning Crisis'. The fact that we have achieved success in placing students in schools, but they're not performing well,” he said.
On the other hand, Patterson said COVID-19 has brought some silver lining to reforming Jamaica's education sector.
He said the pandemic forced the teaching profession associated with the Ministry of Education to acquire the skills of remote learning in a hurry and the reluctance that existed before vanished.
“Our commission began its work several months after COVID struck and that prevented us from doing certain things which would have been necessary under normal circumstances, such as visiting schools,” Patterson said.
“However, COVID did have some silver lining. One of them was that we had to work through Zoom, which meant that we were able to interview, to meet with a much larger number of stakeholders, than we would, had we been meeting in person.