Sun | Dec 11, 2016

Responding to schools in need

Published:Saturday | January 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The idea of strong schools assisting the weak ones in practical ways suggests that some creative minds are working for solutions over at the Ministry of Education. Why it has taken so long defies logic, however, we must invoke the oft-repeated rejoinder, "better late than never".

Although the details are not entirely worked out as yet, it was interesting to read about the planned intervention which the education ministry has dubbed, "a strategic empowerment project". The initiative is designed to help poor-performing upgraded high schools do a better job of preparing their charges for the world of work. The project will see partner schools sharing facilities, staff and learning opportunities. We expect that some amount of coaching and mentoring will also be done. There should also be a timeline

during which performance targets should be met.

Even though we do not have all the facts, we stand in support of all workable remedial actions which will give students the start in life which they really deserve. As it stands, the Jamaican educational system is

terribly unbalanced, for at one end there are students who perform magnificently and are able to match wits with the brightest and best anywhere.

Disappointingly, however, there are scores of young adults who exit the school system as functional illiterates. They are the ones who are unable to find good-paying jobs, and after spending five years at high school, they end up in very low-skilled employment, such as packing grocery bags.

general benefit

Therefore, if this initiative succeeds in reducing the number of functional illiterates and produces more graduates who are numerate, the entire country stands to benefit from the advantages of a better educated populace.

Having made the grand announcement, we hope the ministry will provide regular updates of how the programme is working. And if it is found to be working well with targets being met, every effort should be made to sustain it. All too often, good programmes are scrapped from one administration to another instead of building on what is already in place.

There are indications that the concept will work

better when the partner schools are in close range. But given today's technological advances in which

distance learning is common, resources can be shared from remote locations. Distance ought not to deter

academically struggling schools from participating in this initiative.

In another related matter, even in a tight fiscal environment, we submit that the Ministry of Education should make the case to the Government for recruiting exceptional talent committed to improving performance, who will bring their experience and ability and work with staff to transform failing schools. There is no dodging the fact that leadership has everything to do with performance.

There is an urgency to find solutions to the factors that cause underperformance in our schools. We cannot continue to fail the next generation by not properly equipping them. We say here and now, this project sounds like a good idea and it should be sustained and even pushed further along.