Sat | May 27, 2017

Education’s Game of Thrones

Published:Tuesday | June 23, 2015 | 6:00 AMGordon Robinson, Contributor

Again, Jamaica's education ministry has it ass backwards.

No, this isn't a sex-education column. Today's rant is about the monumental disaster called GSAT. Under different names, this example of national child abuse has been passed off as a 'placement' examination when, in reality, it's a cruel trick by successive governments to cover up their rank abdication of responsibility to provide children with high-quality education taught by excellent teachers.

Those schoolgirl days

of telling tales and biting nails are gone.

But, in my mind,

I know they will still live on and on.

But how do you thank someone

who has taken you from crayons to perfume?

It isn't easy, but I'll try

If you wanted the sky

I would write across the sky in letters

that would soar a thousand feet high

To sir, with love

At the GSAT name change, Government said the exam was restructured to uncover children's proclivities to better to place them in appropriate schools. Instead, the same old placement method has been perpetuated whereby the highest performers on a strictly academic exam have been sent to the 'best' schools. The less fortunate are abandoned at non-performing high schools.

 

Upgrades are essential

This callous disregard of Jamaica's future, motivated by politics as usual, does have a suitable alternative. Government's responsibility is to upgrade ALL schools to above mediocre; provide ALL schools with the best facilities and teachers capable of teaching individuals individually; and cease ALL standardised tests in favour of every child's right to a proper secondary education at a government school.

 

But this would mean reducing the size of government; cutting the public sector; allocating funds and expertise to a brand-new educational paradigm; and committing to change. That's unthinkable for today's political dinosaurs. So, instead, the ministry issues an edict that students will be placed according to geography. Really? SERIOUSLY? Are you seriously suggesting that, because of GEOGRAPHY, my child should be told he/she can't attend the school of his/her dreams although I can convince that school to accept him/her? Or is this another political illusion created to cover up Government's disgraceful dereliction of duty by a putrid pretence that it is protecting parents unable to afford transportation costs?

What a joke! I can name any number of hugely successful adults whose parents couldn't afford transportation costs, but they attended all the best institutions, including UTech or UWI. Today, they've become doctors, lawyers, journalists etc. Many begged drives to school; shivered and starved while schoolmates ate lunch; and walked/hitchhiked home but, driven by burning desires to succeed and knowing the best path to success was the best education, sacrificed ignominiously until, frequently, parents' finances improved or non-resident siblings came to the rescue or some unexpected scenario assisted.

Why? Because they were determined to help themselves and hung on until better came. Every single one can name a great, unselfish, motivating teacher who kept them going. That encounter wasn't based on geography.

The time has come for closing books.

And long last looks must end.

And, as I leave,

I know that I am leaving my best friend.

A friend who taught me right from wrong

and weak from strong

that's a lot to learn.

But, what can I give you in return?

If you wanted the moon

I would try to make a start

but I

would rather you let me give my heart

To sir, with love.

Seminal 1967 movie, To Sir With Love, about the effect of great teaching on troubled children, catapulted living legend Sidney Poitier, the first black man to win a leading actor Oscar, and Scottish sensation Lulu, to international stardom. The theme, written by Don Black and Mark London, gave Lulu her sole international hit.

Now Big Brother wants to disrespect parents and force their children to suffer substandard education by demotivated, incompetent teachers because 'schools' are nearby? C'mon, man!

 

Fight to the death

I have a better solution for Government to send all students to good schools without diverting funds from the purchase of SUVs for ministers. Scrap GSAT. Instead, put all candidates in the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium and have a trial by combat, Game of Thrones style. Give them swords and shields and promote fights to the death with cheering parents as spectators until only those that can be accommodated in the best schools are left.

Not that this is essentially any different from GSAT, but at least Government would no longer be pretending its priorities included educating our children when its sole priority is to pay foreign-exchange bond holders.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.