EXPANDING SYSTEM: Dr Tim Gopeesingh

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T&T will be 'first in world' to offer free education

...from early childhood to tertiary level

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

Cabinet has approved some $163 million aimed at expanding the education system in a mission to make Trinidad and Tobago the first country in the world to offer free universal education from early childhood to tertiary education.

Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh disclosed this at the post-Cabinet news conference on Thursday at the Coco Reef Hotel, Tobago, where the Cabinet held its meeting.

Gopeesingh said that it was the vision of the Prime Minister to make early childhood care education universal as she did with the secondary school system.

He noted that there were some 34,000 children between the ages of three and four in the country, 80 per cent of whom are enrolled in early childhood care systems in the private sector.

Government, he said, will partner with the private sector to ensure there is universal early childhood care by 2015.

He said in June and July this year, the Ministry conducted a series of consultations to introduce the concept of a public/private partnership arrangement where private stakeholders expressed their willingness to partner with the Ministry.

A memorandum of understanding, he said, will be signed between the Government and private early childhood care providers in accordance with selected governance models.

This initiative, he said, is estimated to cost some $100 million annually.

Gopeesingh noted that some 20 per cent of the 34,000 are enrolled in Government ECCE centres, 70 of these 200 centres are run by Servol.

Cabinet, he said, further approved a number of employment positions on contract to ensure these ECCE centres are well staffed.

He added that Cabinet agreed to increase the subvention to Servol to meet payments of salaries and other expenses.

Gopeesingh noted that there are some persons employed in ECCE centres for some 30 years and who do not have "tremendous qualifications" nor qualify for pension.

As a result, Cabinet has approved an ex gratia payment of some $39 million for these persons for their service.

Gopeesingh also noted that there were a number of positions in the teaching service that cannot be filled as teachers do not want to be posted to schools in remote areas.

He said Cabinet agreed to the employment on contract of 200 assistant instructors at levels one, two and three to be placed in secondary schools for three years at a cost of $24 million.

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