Sat | Dec 16, 2017

JaRistotle’s Jottings | A tale of two Jamaicas - Part 1

Published:Thursday | July 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, the age of wisdom, the age of foolishness ... the spring of hope, the winter of despair. Dickens' opening lines (A Tale of Two Cities) are chillingly representative of today's Jamaica. How so? you ask. Let's take a look.

The social, economic and security well-being of any country is predicated on a practicable education system. Sadly, Jamaica's education system is not one for the people, but is designed and run by people who are not in touch with reality.

 

Education

 

Consider the inadequate number of basic and primary schools, the woefully excessive ratio of students to teachers and the unhealthy conditions in so many of these schools, none of which are conducive to a proper learning environment. Consider also the challenging home situation of many of our young students, living in crime-infested communities, absent parents and the like, as well as the questionable capacity of teachers at various levels.

This is where the tale of the two Jamaicas begins.

The 'haves' need not worry on such matters, off to prep school the kids go. Since they are already at the top of the pork barrel, the powerful and moneyed have no apparent interest in raising the bar on education. Let the 'haves-not' languish in the barrel.

Move on to the education curriculum that has been dumped on us by the ministry and its minions with little consideration for the realities in the classrooms. The GSAT programme is an injustice inflicted on our youngsters, and leaves many of them in the starting blocks from the get go. Whatever happened to the three Rs - Reading, Riting and Rithmetic?

Instead, we have a curriculum that is more predicated on high school subject matter and which loses sight of primary education goals, which is so over-the-top that extra lessons have become an imperative and a fantastic revenue stream for many teachers. Let's see what the enlightened ones come with as a replacement.

The separation of the two Jamaicas widens at this juncture.

Children with low passes in the GSAT are placed in institutions that are merely schools in name, the so-called non-traditional high schools. However, the 'dunce pickneys' of the haves who did not do so well, through the exercise of power and money, avoid such placement by getting transfers to the schools of choice. The haves need to keep their children at the top of the barrel.

And so the high school drama now unfolds, getting up to fifth form and CSEC examinations. Regardless of how poorly some students do throughout their time in high school, there is little or no repeating of forms. Make way for the next class and continue to attend, pay fees and learn nothing. These are supposed to be institutions of learning, with the students being the most important assets. Not so.

Instead, we often get functional illiterates who officially graduate from high school, and successive governments using this as an argument for a successful education system. What education?

Some schools are overly concerned about their image, their pass statistics, and so there are many instances of students not being allowed to sit CSEC examinations because they are likely to fail. But how did they get to fifth form in the first place? Such a disservice to our youngsters.

 

Technical skills

 

Not every student is an academic whiz. Some are more technically gifted, geniuses who can do wonders with tools and instruments. What provision if any, is being made to recognise this talent from an early stage and to put these youngsters into an appropriate stream of learning where their skills can be best cultivated? In the absence of such, they invariably fail to matriculate in the academic pathway and never realise their full potential, inevitably condemned to remain in the pork barrel.

There is little doubt that we need an education system that caters to the diverse needs, circumstances and capabilities of young Jamaicans as against the current one that creates a divide across society and leaves many confined to the pork barrel. Is there any interest in changing or is this by design, to enable division and rule?

Tune in next week for more on the tale of two Jamaicas.