Sat | Nov 28, 2020

Editorial | Work towards equality in education

Published:Saturday | October 24, 2020 | 12:15 AM

The story of Ainsley Rodhen offers a clear and compelling reason to celebrate in one of the most unsettling times in human history.

This B.B. Coke High School graduate has successfully shaken the label of ‘ward of the state’ and is proudly wearing the ‘high school achiever’ label. Rodhen picked up nine subjects to complete grade 11 with 14 CSEC subjects. He added two City & Guilds subjects and NCTVET certification and has moved into a tertiary institution hoping to carve out a career in the logistics industry.

Somehow, we do not believe we have heard the full extent of the many challenges he would have encountered on the road to this great outcome.

Yes, we got a glimpse – a crowded dormitory with rowdy mates who did not value education as much and hid his books, reliance on the benevolence of teachers to pay his fees – though the rest of the story remains untold.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered schools closed and forced them to switch to remote learning. This would mean sharing resources and trying to learn in an overcrowded environment with limited supervision.

We think there is a deceptively simple message in this story: students in care can meet the same achievement standards of their peers if they are motivated, encouraged, and respected. Rodhen got respect from some of individuals who cared for him, and he knew there were other persons who believed in him. This, obviously, was the fuel he needed to ignore bad influence and to press ahead.

CELEBRATING

The Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) is this year celebrating many more students like Rodhen. The agency has reported that a significant number of its students have been successful in their school-leaving examinations and are now looking to enter university.

Why are these results worthy of comment? These commendable results produced by children in care help to shatter the belief that there is a certain inevitability to underachievement by children who find themselves in vulnerable situations. These achievements should be enough to shake the status quo.

Those who manage our schools and shape education policy have expended much energy and resources in trying to close the gaps in performance by introducing a slew of reforms, ranging from professional development of teachers to revised curricula and placing focus on STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – subjects, yet the gaps remain.

Surely, we have the answer when we look at these students who have demonstrated that despite the odds, they can overcome systemic mediocrity and march towards a bright, productive future. Achieving equity in our schools has to be the most desirable goal for our country as we prepare a workforce for the global economy.

Turning our youth into tomorrow’s skilled workers and innovative beings is critical to ensuring Jamaica’s growth and competitiveness to guarantee our survival in a post-COVID-19 world.

So here is an example of the positive learning outcome that our education administrators seek to achieve in all institutions. By improving the outcomes of vulnerable students, especially boys, we have an opportunity to leverage everyone’s talent and innovative spirit.

Perhaps now our educators understand that addressing the underlying social and economic inequities between schools in inner-city and depressed communities and their more established rivals will yield a good return on investment.