Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Lascelve Graham | Sports fanatics dumbing down students

Published:Saturday | May 6, 2017 | 5:00 AM
Lascelve Graham

The Educate Jamaica CSEC ranking of high schools published in The Gleaner on Wednesday was based on the percentage of students at the end of grade 11 who achieved five or more passes, including English and/or maths. It makes for interesting reading, especially because it appears that those who lead the way in the sports arena curiously become laggards and stragglers in the educational race.

Campion College was ranked No. 1 and Immaculate No. 2. The first boys' school to appear was Wolmer's, at No. 10. The next was Munro at 21, followed by KC at 22. St George's College was at 27, Jamaica College at 39, Calabar at 45, and Cornwall College at 46, the last school with 50 per cent or more of its cohort getting five subjects.

If we look at the first 10 boys' schools at the recently concluded Boys' Champs, only one, Wolmer's, made it to the top 10 on the educational scale, and barely so, while three did not have 50 per cent of their cohort achieving five passes, including English and/or maths. Calabar was ranked 40th in 2016 and 45th in 2017, with 53.5 of its cohort achieving the five passes. Jamaica College was ranked 31st in 2016 and 39th in 2017 (the greatest fall in ranking of the boys' schools), with 64 per cent of its student cohort achieving the five passes. On the girls' side, only two of the Champs top 10 were ranked in the top 10 educationally, Immaculate at No. 2 and Wolmer's at No. 7, while five, including the winners, Edwin Allen, did not make the 50 per cent cut (in fact, only 23 per cent of their cohort had the required 5 subjects).

 

SIMILAR PASS RATES

 

It is noteworthy that the lowest-placed girls' school, Marymount High, at 36, had 68.2 per cent of its cohort achieving the required level, while the lowest-placed boys' school, Cornwall College, at 46, had only 53.1 per cent achieving the five passes.

I cannot understand why with the reported millions of dollars pumped into JC, it should not be trending towards being the number 1-ranked high school educationally. Instead, it is going in the opposite direction! Is it that it is easier to act as a sports academy, rabidly recruiting youngsters discovered and developed by the less-endowed schools, than to do well in the educational realm?

The acting principal of JC is reported to have confessed (STAR, 24/4/17) that recruiting students helps to build the school's ability to win these competitions (Champs and football). JC has won the most football titles and many Champs titles throughout the years and has continued to do well in sports in recent times. However, educationally, it languishes. Why?

Calabar and Cornwall are on a similar slippery slope, with their cohort percentages being just barely above 50 per cent. Is the heavy focus to win that these schools place on sports helping or hindering their educational mission? Given its dismal educational showing, should Calabar really have been so focused on installing a state-of-the-art running track? Are the priorities skewed?

We complain that our girls outperform the boys, educationally. Is this obsession of our (male) alumni to win at sports in school helping our boys to close the gap?

I have been told that in the mad rush to win at sports, some schools have been known to bring in youngsters who are barely literate or numerate because they can run or play football. If this is so, is this really what our 'preferred' specialised educational institutions should be about?

I am sure that the alumni and leadership of Campion and Immaculate would love to win more sports competitions, but they control their baser instincts, realising the primary educational mission of school and the responsibility they have to provide the best-rounded education they can for the children of Jamaica.

- Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham is a chemist and former Jamaica football captain. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.