Leave student transfers to schools
The recently announced student athlete transfer policy has sparked much debate across the length and breadth of Jamaica, as most naturally it should, since it will affect a wide cross section of schools.
As it stands, the Education Regulation of 1980 states in Section 28 that "a student may be transferred from one public educational institution to another where:
a) he is eligible for admission to the other school; and
b) space is available in the school in which he seeks admission; and
c) there has been consultation between the principal of the institution he is presently attending and the principal of the institution to which he seeks admission; and
d) the minister has given his approval in writing, where necessary. "
The section continues and ends with a listing of information required to complete the process of transfer.
By the way these guidelines are configured, it is abundantly clear that the schools must do all the groundwork in deciding whether students qualify for a transfer. I can see, therefore, that subsections A, B and C are indeed relevant. I am a bit worried, however, that there is no mention of parents, who must be of paramount importance to the process.
Subsection D suggests that the minister may give his approval where necessary. As a parent of two fairly young sons, I would like to know what makes it necessary for the minister to give written approval.
Is it that all transfers will be done through the ministry, or is it only transfers for student athletes that will be done in this way?
OVERBEARING AND PREJUDICIAL
It would seem as if there is a deliberate plan afoot to make the process of transferring student athletes a tremendously tedious experience for those who choose to go that route. I consider any kind of scheme to that effect to be overbearing and prejudicial. Of course, all reasonable persons will admit that there are sometimes compelling reasons for transfers to take place in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education, like many other ministries, does not boast a fine track record in achieving good approval rates for applications made and I do not see that changing dramatically to accommodate the transfer of students.
I hear about a plan to have a clearing house at the offices of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) help with approving applications. If this is so, a serious conflict of interest could arise, since the current president of ISSA is indeed a school principal and could simply use his powers to get his requests approved in quick time while not putting the same level of effort in having others approved.
I believe parents must continue to have a say in where they want their children to go and develop themselves socially, academically and otherwise. We hear the arguments that student athletes are being exploited and not encouraged to do work after they are taken into the receiving school. What is to say, however, that they would not be exploited if they remained at the sending school?
Indeed, I believe that schools and parents are in the best position to determine whether their children should be transferred. It is also my firm view that the leadership of local schools are competent and thoughtful enough to lead and, indeed, complete the process of student transfers, after which they should report to the governing body, which is the Ministry of Education.
I am bemused by the seeming plot to discourage, if not eliminate, student transfers, as this is sometimes the only hope for some of our students to go out and experience as good life in a school where there are efficient systems to promote their growth and development - be it in sports, academics or, generally, social living. I feel it for any parent or child who is so denied.
I need us to be true to ourselves and concede that the transfer of students is not in itself an issue. The real issue is that we must work together to bring all educational institutions in Jamaica on par with each other so parents and students will be in less of a hurry to seek transfers.
- Owen Speid is principal of Rousseau Road Primary School. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.