CHAIRMAN of Barita Investments Ltd, Rita Humphries-Lewin, believes that the use of patois in the media is negatively affecting the teaching of English language at the early childhood level.
Humphries-Lewin, whose company has contributed significantly to early childhood education through its Barita Education Foundation (BEF), is also calling for higher standards for entry to teachers' colleges as she says many trained teachers are unable to speak English properly.
"We need to bring back grammar into the elementary schools, and I would also take this opportunity of speaking to the media and the advertising agencies of trying to infuse their ads and comments with... patois. We all know and can speak patois, but this bombardment of patois in the media is now requiring that translation from patois to English is becoming a major task in the basic schools," Humphries-Lewin said on Wednesday.
She was speaking at BEF's motivation breakfast for teachers at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. She also called on the Ministry of Education and the Early Childhood Commission to raise the entry requirements for teacher-training institutions. Describing the oral language of some graduates as "unbelievable", Humphries-Lewin said this has resulted in children being unable to pronounce words properly.
Education Minister Reverend Ronald Thwaites, who was guest speaker at the function, concurred that the standard of early childhood education needed to be lifted.
Noting that 200 more trained teachers would be placed in early childhood institutions by the end of October, Thwaites called for infant and basic school teachers to have equal pay with their counterparts at the higher levels of the education system.
"It's a shame that we pay our early childhood teachers less than we do teachers at other levels of the profession. We need, in fact, the most advanced professionals at that level", he said. However, he said the percentage of trained teachers at the early childhood level needed to be urgently raised from its present 20 per cent.
The minister reiterated his view that teachers should speak in English to children in the classroom. "If children are exposed more to conversations in English they will use it better," he said.
Thwaites said Government was spending $1 billion more on early childhood education this year than last year.
From its launch in 2004, BEF has worked with 26 early childhood institutions, where over 10,000 children have been taught foundation skills in literacy and numeracy, 312 teachers have been trained, and parenting skills of more than 850 parents have been enhanced.