Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, has underscored the critical need for Jamaican students to be fluent in English Language, noting that this is critical for the country’s progress. He said that the English is the language of professionalism, scientific discovery, and commerce, and the Ministry in promoting literacy in the language. “There can absolutely be no compromise about this, and teachers… and those of us who are engaged in promoting education, must learn to be fluent in English and we must instruct in English in order that even if we use our own native language, it must be used as a tool to the English Language and not as a substitute therefore,” he stated. The Education Minister was addressing the official launch of the Jamaica Reading Association’s Literacy Conference yesterday (Nov. 9) at the Mico University College in Kingston. He commended the organization of staging the event, and urged the members to continue dedicating their time and efforts to the advancement to literacy in the island. He said that renewed focus must be placed on literacy in an effort to ensure greater advancement of the nation’s future leaders. “The deficit in literacy and the decline of the habit of reading are, in fact, the major cramps to the outcomes and advances of education in Jamaica and by derivation the development both of the human capital and indeed, the economic fortunes of our nation”. Let us get it clear, education is the number one investment that any nation can undertake,” he stated. “We believe that if we can only ‘buss’ a tune or if we can wiggle down a catwalk or sometimes people believe that if they can figure out the intricacies of the lottery scam then, somehow you can get ahead in life and it doesn’t really matter if you can read or write,” he lamented. The Education Minister further encouraged parents and teachers “to get it right from the earliest stages,” noting that too much money is being spent on remedial education. He informed that some $20 billion of the education budget every year goes to remedial work. The conference was held under the theme: ‘Jamaica is Fifty – Get into High Gear with Literacy’. Representatives from literacy groups across the island and the wider Caribbean attended the function.