Daniah Mignott | APSE needs support
As an Alternative Pathway to Secondary Education (APSE) student support coach at a non-traditional institution, I sit to prepare for the second school term, while thoughts of my obstacles inevitable cross my mind. The Ministry of Education has implemented a fairly new approach in selected high schools – APSE.
This approach was put in place to see how best special educators, literacy specialists, numeracy specialists and regular teachers could best assist students who have matriculated to high schools; but who were still academically behind by nature of unacknowledged mild disabilities or other matters that need the support of other vital stakeholders. However, this approach comes with several hindrances, as all other school related programmes.
The APSE approach is implemented, but lacks support. Any logical educator will agree that the approach is most needed and, though established, there are several obstacles that must be discussed and addressed in order for it to achieve its best.
I have identified three major obstacles among the many, after being an APSE coach for almost a year and a teacher for 10 years.
n Obstacle 1 – Too many students are sent primarily to non-traditional high schools, and who are drastically lacking the prerequisites they should have garnered from basic and primary school.
n Obstacle 2 – Students’ financial and social background negatively affects the achievements of the affective domain and the child’s full academic potential.
n Obstacle 3 – The ministry and the school’s unwillingness or inability to provide the needed resources in order to cater for the students’ needs, stifles the progress of the approach.
LACK ACADEMIC PREREQUISITES
I am sure that several non-traditional schools can attest to getting an abundance of students with the lowest Grade Six Achievement Test scores or Primary Exit Profile scores most recently. Therefore, we are the vessels which receive the many students who lack the prerequisites in order to effectively absorb the prescribed grade-seven curriculum. The calibre of students we receive extends from students who we have had to reteach the basic phonetic elements to writing a simple sentence; concepts that should have been cemented at the basic- and primary-school levels.
As a result, secondary trained teachers are forced to re-teach these needed prerequisites which comes along with a wide array of positive and negative limitations. Thus, this delays the teaching of the prescribed curriculum, especially for mathematics and English language, and later makes some students unprepared for the standard and traditional Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate and other non-traditional examinations. There must be a meeting of the minds.
The approach needs to be effectively implemented, firstly, at the primary-school level. If the child still has not acquired the prerequisites, as the student matriculates to high school, the child must be accompanied by a thorough report of his or her strengths and weaknesses, social experiences and background, along with recommendations. We must aim to solve our education crisis from the root and not the stem.
STUDENTS’ FINANCIAL AND SOCIAL BACKGROUND
Our students’ financial and social background is another struggle that impedes the APSE approach. Many of our students are more often than not from low-income families and live in inner-city communities. We daily encounter students who attend school without lunch money, students who are adorned in the same dirty uniform five days of the week, students with poor dental and personal hygiene as a result of parental neglect or parents’ true financial inability to cater to their child’s needs. These needs greatly impede any objective set by our specialist.
Additionally, students with poor social background have caused chaos in and out of the classroom. Owing to the communities these students are from, they have infiltrated their learnt behaviours within the school.
These communities that disparage women in sexually explicit ways, women who rather buy Peruvian bundles than to invest in their children, the knee-high tight pants as fashion, and communities that teaches ‘jungle justice’ and that ‘informer fi dead’ allegiance, make no good canvas for us as educators to teach our students conflict resolutions and the importance of acting like ladies and gentlemen.
We need families and churches to take back this lost generation. Hungry, dirty, unloved children who have gathered the wrong ideals will no doubt struggle to learn under the APSE approach.
Finally, the ministry’s unwillingness to support the greater needs of non-traditional high schools is another sore point. Our schools are at a greater disadvantage, as anyone with the slightest vision would be able to see. We lack proper and adequate furniture, conducive classroom environment, technology, appropriate textbooks, more classrooms to accommodate smaller settings of students, trained teachers of special education, and the list can go on and on.
With the delayed content, yet dynamic, technology-driven kids, we must put the suitable resources in place so that we are able to maximise the true potential of all our students. Let them all be given a fair chance at life.
APSE coaches all over the country are creatively trying to do their best with the limited resources and are making recognisable impacts in non-traditional institutions. However, any true and passionate educator does not only want to make mere minimal accomplishments, but lifetime impacts. Thus, the APSE approach needs to be revised and given full support so that we can better support our children.
Daniah Mignott is a coach and teacher in the Alternative Pathway to Secondary Education (APSE) programme. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.