Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Mark Ricketts | Television and education

Published:Sunday | October 9, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Mark Ricketts

"We keep looking backwards as if we are afraid of the future."

- President Barack Obama


Television has been the most powerful and impactful medium over the last 60 years and it is firmly established as part of our culture. In the US, and most likely in Jamaica, children under six watch an average of two hours per day, and kids eight to 18 spend roughly four hours a day glued to the screen.

TV entertains and engages. Children provided with quality educational programmes are more likely to have higher grades, read more books, show more creativity in schools than peers who are not exposed to such programming. "Even toddlers and infants watching the screen are likely to enter kindergarten with an increased vocabulary and with overall readiness skills that include the ability to count," says Debbie McCarson, teacher and business administrator

Where TV can be destructive is what Kaiser Foundation calls the displacement factor, where TV acts as a babysitter for children very late at night and where kids are induced "to just watch TV" instead of studying or doing their homework.

But McCarson adds, "Educational and informative shows can benefit students. Used as a supplement to traditional education, educational programming can actually boost grades."




If we can use TV programming in a structured way in the classroom to let children look forward to coming to school, love learning, there will likely be less of the displacement factor at home at nights, as students are likely to be more inclined to do their homework and undertake studies for the joy and experience of learning.

If that premise is correct, let us put a good-size TV in every classroom in Jamaica to try and turn around the abysmally low participation rate and performance trend.

Fast-forward to September 2017, the start of the next school year. The nerve centre, the New Technology School Hub I referred to two weeks ago, is up and running. Children in classrooms all over Jamaica will watch their teacher turn on the TV and see colour, form, lines, graphics, and watch informative programmes.

Children will then see the job requirements and demands in each sector and what skill sets or talents he or she needs. They will also get a clear understanding, through hundreds of actual examples, what service is, means, and entails.

This TV presentation is not any stand up and talk presentation so children yawn and twist reflecting boredom. This is going to be action, animation, graphics, drama. It is not going to be a speech on cloud engineering, or how to be a neuroscientist, or a caregiver, or an application analyst, or a software designer, nurse, casting director, or an agronomist.

There are hundreds of professions, trades, occupations that most children don't have a clue about. There are thousands of things to build and engineer and conceive and design. We have to bring it to them in such an appealing and attractive manner that they can be fascinated and can't wait to learn and expend the effort.

For that message to carry the power that is required, we need a major film studio in Trelawny to capture countless scenes, defining and extolling service and job skills, talent, work, money, and entrepreneurship.

Growth and development are not just about downtown Kingston development or education or lawlessness or crime. It is about a bold integrated vision to tap Jamaica's human capital and physical assets.

TVs in the classroom will show not just films about professions and occupations and trades but movies as well about brilliant and excellent Jamaicans.

Other things the TV will be used for include facilitating computer and smartphone use, interactive learning, conflict resolution, English as our first language and Spanish as our second, and providing as well an insight into the fourth industrial revolution with its disruptive technology and innovations.




Giving credence to my position, Henry Thompson, in a letter in response to my article on technology and education recently, stated quite pointedly, "No physical library has the information capacity of the smallest cell phone - now is the future, not tomorrow. Interactive learning and instant access to information are the order of the day. Let the students play while they learn. That way we teach them to understand instead of memorise."

It's the same principle in learning a language.

"We need to join the education superhighway or get left behind in the total darkness of knowledge. As the Chinese adage says, what I read I forget. What I see I remember. What I do I understand."

Incidentally, Thompson is hoping to use his own money to establish Wi-Fi at his alma mater.

The technological revolution, the generation of students finding learning interesting, can happen, and must happen. We cannot persist with the existing performance trends in education.

- Mark Ricketts, economist, author, lecturer living in California was chief economist of the Vancouver Board of Trade in Canada; deputy chairman of the Jamaica Stock Exchange; and publisher of the 'Money Index', a weekly magazine. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and