Saturday 26 September, 2020

Jamaica must invest more in science and research, says bank executive

Claudine Allen (right), Executive, Member Relations at The Jamaica National Group and Professor Michael Taylor (centre), Dean, Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of the West Indies, Mona, listen keenly to appoint being made by Dr Glen Christian, Convenor of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics for Growth Task Force, during the recent launch of the Forecast 2020 Conference.

Claudine Allen (right), Executive, Member Relations at The Jamaica National Group and Professor Michael Taylor (centre), Dean, Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of the West Indies, Mona, listen keenly to appoint being made by Dr Glen Christian, Convenor of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics for Growth Task Force, during the recent launch of the Forecast 2020 Conference.

A senior bank executive is advocating that Jamaica invests more in research and science, pointing out that science and technology must become important economic drivers for the country’s future.

The recommendation came from Claudine Allen, executive, member relations at the Jamaica National (JN) Group, during her address, at the recent launch of the Forecast 2020 Conference.

The conference is being organised in partnership with The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) and will be held June 9-12 under the theme: “Science and Technology as a Pillar for Regional Transformation.”

“Science and innovation are important to us now, as a people in this region,” Allen said, “Not simply to position our industries, including our financial services, to develop and compete more forcefully and effectively; but, also to protect our countries from the real and serious harms of climate change.”  

She noted that despite the numerous achievements, which Jamaica and the wider Caribbean have made in the field of science and research, “collectively our investment in and the economic value we have extracted from science and technology, have not been great in measure”.

Allen stated that the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), informed that in 2018, the government spent 0.7 per cent of the budget on research and development; and, from a Caribbean and Latin America perspective, a report by UNESCO showed that approximately 0.5 per cent of GDP was spent by the region, compared to 2.4 per cent by North America and Europe; and two per cent by East Asia and the Pacific.

“At the high school level, interest and performance in the sciences and mathematics have also traditionally been low,” she informed.

However, Allen pointed out that the 2018 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) results showed some significant improvement in the performance in natural sciences, as 72 per cent of students achieved passes in Biology; while 60 per cent achieved passes in Chemistry; and 68 per cent in Physics. 

The JN executive also lauded the government’s move to push the development of “performance-based,” STEM schools, to increase the performance levels in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; as well as, innovation. 

Allen further noted that initiatives, such as the Forecast conference, are positive move for the country and the wider Caribbean, as the forum is targeted to promote scientific thinking, entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.

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