Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Robert Miller | The miseducation of Mark Ricketts

Published:Wednesday | September 14, 2016 | 9:00 AM

I make reference to a Mark Ricketts article that was published in The Sunday Gleaner dated September 11, 2016 under the caption, 'Education misplaced'.

It was the legendary Robert Nesta Marley who aptly stated, "None but ourselves can free our minds."

It is obvious that the author has lost touch with the evolving educational system in Jamaica.

It is evident that more needs to be done with regard to how we educate the students within our care.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information acknowledges this and continues to work to reposition the system.

Ricketts wrote: "It is so unfortunate that our education has made us an elitist and class-conscious nation." While this perspective may have held sway in the past, with the introduction of the policy of no tuition fees implemented by the Golding administration in 2007, under the stewardship of the then minister of education, now prime minister, Andrew Holness, this has levelled the playing field and has afforded the right of a quality education to every child.

Gone are the days where if parents could not afford school and/or auxiliary fees, children would be denied access or parents would be ashamed or embarrassed to send their child or children to school.

The no-tuition-fee policy has resulted in a more equitable system, allowing our parents to feel more comfortable sending their children to school.

According to a Letter of the Day that was published in The Gleaner on Tuesday, September 8, 2015, titled 'Universities need much more men'. Christopher Goldson quoted in his article:

"According to a 2007 article written by Professor Mark Figueroa of the University of the West Indies (UWI) in the 2000s, the gender balance within the graduating class of UWI moved beyond a ratio of 70:30 in favour of females. It is necessary to increase the number of men entering university."

This is evident across the board; females are excelling. The current issue we face is that they are excelling professionally while sometimes neglecting the social and emotional needs in terms of finding a life partner, according to Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

 

Education emphasis

 

As stated by you, "Our education, with emphasis on lawyer, doctor, Indian chief, allowed our brightest going off to Cambridge or Oxford to study the professions most likely to catapult them into the privileged classes, and even our own university here in the West Indies validated this class orientation." The National Standards Curriculum recently introduced within our secondary schools continues to mandate the holistic development of all students to prepare them to function effectively in the 21st century where skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity are paramount. As a part of this thrust, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information is expanding its partnership with Junior Achievement Jamaica to ensure increased access for our youth to learn and apply entrepreneurial skills.

There is also the Career Advancement Programme, which is mandatory. This programme is an additional two years to the school curriculum to ensure that all students are engaged, whether through tertiary education, the learning of a skill or a combination of both up to age 18.

I will close by drawing your attention to an article published in The Gleaner on Monday, July 11, 2016, 'Degree holders flock to HEART', which alluded to the fact that over the last three years, the institution has seen a 44 per cent increase of degree applicants registered for skills training programmes at HEART Trust/NTA.

This type of momentum has proven that across the educational spectrum of Jamaica and because of its transformational role, people are emancipating their minds from mental slavery and using their education as a tool to successfully fill the needs of the marketplace.

• Robert D. Miller, senior adviser to Senator Ruel Reid, minister of education, youth and information, and board chairman of the National Youth Service. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.