The impact of parenting on Vision 2030
Esther Tyson, Columnist
According to Vision 2030 Jamaica, our country will develop an education and training system that produces well-rounded and qualified individuals who will be empowered to learn for life, able to function as creative and productive individuals in all spheres of our society, and be competitive in a global context. Our literacy rate for those over 15 years old will exceed 98 per cent.
For the goals stated above to be realised in 16 years, we have to address a number of issues that will require the full participation of the society and a multi-agency approach. The Vision 2030 document outlines some of the challenges we face as a nation to achieving this educational outcome. One that is most pressing is the involvement of our youth in crime.
Vision 2030 indicates that "youth are the primary victims and perpetrators of crimes, particularly violent crimes. The large proportion of youth in our working-age population presents an opportunity for our country's development. It is, therefore, essential that we build the capacity of this group to ensure that it is integral to development planning and implementation".
The other pressing challenge to attaining our educational goal in 2030 is the issue of the lack of readiness of our children beginning primary-level education.
"Some parents are ill-equipped for their role as caregivers and to provide a supporting environment for the development of their children. As a result, many children attain primary-school age without the necessary preparation to access the primary-level curriculum; they underperform at higher levels of the school system." - Vision 2030
I want to focus on the issue of parenting as an essential component to our students being at a place to enable Jamaica to achieve the educational goals of Vision 2030. The two challenges referred to: youth involvement in violent crimes and our children's lack of readiness for primary education can be addressed if we begin to seriously implement strategies to deal with training our parents in child-rearing. Even though the Ministry of Education has been putting programmes such HFLE in place in the schools, it cannot do the work of character development without the support of parents.
Teachers will tell you that when children are taught positive attitudes and behaviours at school, many go back into homes and communities where the opposite is practised, which undermines any achievements made at school. Cultural practices from the home, in many cases, involve using violence to resolve any conflicts or any perceived disrespect shown. This mindset is counterproductive to academic achievement.
Teachers who are in schools where the majority of the students come from this background have to spend the majority of the class time dealing with discipline. In this situation, not much of the curriculum is taught. In schools where students come from homes where they are taught self-control and peaceful ways to deal with conflict, teaching can produce a greater level of academic achievement.
Furthermore, students who are raised in homes with parents who help to stimulate them cognitively from an early age by reading to them, exposing them to books, and other forms of play designed to help them develop their psycho-motor skills come ready for learning at the early childhood level. Compare that to children from homes where they are exposed to violence to resolve conflicts, where they receive verbal and physical abuse for their actions, where they are condemned because "unnu play tu much", where they never see a book nor have anyone read to them, and we realise that how our children are parented has a marked impact on how they achieve in school.
HOME AND SCHOOL
It is when we begin to see a synergy between home and school in terms of the values and standards taught that we will begin to see more of our children coming to school ready to learn and displaying less antisocial behaviour. Positive parenting is key to attaining our educational goals for 2030.
We need to realise that many young people who are now parents have had no positive role models from whom to learn. Many parent in the way that they were brought up - involving a lot of verbal and physical abuse. There are too many young people who are parenting themselves and who come to school without the love and support they need in order to achieve. Yes, we do have some exceptional cases, but these are so rare that when we find them, they are highlighted on TV.
I know that we have various groups working to develop parenting skills in Jamaica, but I believe that in addition to these activities, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health should work together to ensure that mothers and fathers who access care at prenatal clinics should be required to participate in parenting classes before their child is born. Caregivers should be sent into homes when children are in the preschool stage to further teach parents how to help their children develop positively.
This multi-agency approach would improve Jamaica's readiness of our children for early childhood training and, ultimately, reduce the appetite of youth for violent crime. Only then will there be a greater likelihood of Jamaica attaining the educational goals of Vision 2030, even if the timing would be a little off-target.