Radley Reid and Franklin Johnston: The CAP doesn't fit
This is a submission from Progressive Educators - a group of 20 experienced leaders in teaching and learning, chaired by Radley Reid and Franklin Johnston.
The Career Advancement Programme (CAP) was originally designed in 2010 to extend by two years the education of a wide range of students leaving school at grade 11.
The programme envisaged that some would have proceeded to grades 12 and 13, on the 'Technical Programme', having obtained appropriate subjects at the CSEC, CVQ or NVQ levels. Those at a low reading level would proceed on the 'General Programme', where they would focus on certain subjects and improve their literacy and numeracy skill.
The CAP programme failed to achieve its objectives in the first two years. This was primarily as a result of lumping all the new CAP students together in a class after regular school, whether they were reading below grade nine or not, with the same dose of subjects in which they were failing dismally before. Certainly, this was not relevant or meaningful to the students.
The rate of success was very poor and millions of dollars were wasted in the process. It should be noted that most of the students in the programme were reading below the grade nine level.
Under then Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, the programme was assessed and revised to meet the needs of the students, and no student was turned away. After looking at the students' performance in high school and after testing, those students reading below the required level were channelled into a programme which included the strengthening of literacy and numeracy. Those reading above grade nine and met the qualification were sent to 53 selected secondary schools or other institutions with an emphasis on TVET. Those who succeeded were able move to HEART/NTA or other institutions to be trained in an appropriate skill or advance their education at a later time. As indicated by the CEO of the Ministry of Education, Dr Grace McLean, the revised CAP is reaping success.
Senator Ruel Reid, the current minister of education, youth and information, initially indicated that he was going to make secondary education compulsory from five years to seven years for all students. Since then, he has indicated that he does not have the legal authority at this stage to do so, but intends to increase the number under the new CAP from 5,000 to 10,000. He also said that these students will be accommodated in September 2016 in secondary schools, HEART institutions, Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning, National Youth Service centres, and other institutions.
Will we find the space and adequate resources to properly deliver the programmes?
Are we forcing the shift system with all its weaknesses and failures on the already weak students?
It should be noted that if the students at the end of grade 11 had performed adequately, they would have advanced naturally to grades 12 and 13 or move on to pursue postsecondary training and studies at other institutions.
Seven years of postprimary schooling already exists in the school system. Many schools have been adding or expanding their grades 12 and 13 in the arts, science, business and technical subjects. The problem is that too few of our students have the minimum requirements to proceed to grade 12.
A SECOND CHANCE
It is not uncommon for a class in grades 12 and 13 to have fewer than eight students. This is uneconomical with the present staff/student ratio of 1:20 and negatively affects the assignment of teachers in the lower school.
Many will say that boys generally develop later than girls and that is true. However, many girls number among the thousands of students who reach grade 11 with few literacy and numeracy skills and are unable to pass any exam and move onward with their education.
Going on for two additional years is not so much the problem; it is with what they are going. Is it repeating, remaining static, or advancing to prosperity?
Most of the students under CAP are being given a second chance with remediation at that level, notwithstanding the reasons. As good as this may be, it should never be seen as a permanent fixture or a solution to the present outcomes in the educational landscape.
Remediation can be useful, but must be adequately addressed at the earlier stages of the student's education, certainly not in grade 12. It is internationally known that to improve the educational outcomes of any educational system, we must begin at the bottom, not at the top. If we begin with the earlier stages of education, it will prove far more beneficial to the intellectual development of the students, produce greater outcomes, be more cost-effective, and make better use of time and resources, especially where money and resources are scarce.
The education system would reap much greater benefits if greater emphasis is placed on early childhood and primary education. The Ministry of Education should continue to spend increasing amounts of money on early childhood education in the conversion of basic schools into infant schools and the addition of trained teachers in early education so that students will be properly prepared to enter the primary system.
While the ministry has less control over the operations of basic schools, it, however, has full control of the primary schools. The schools should first be properly resourced and made accountable so that they will send sociable, well-balanced, competent, literate and numerate students into the secondary system. There are far too many students entering secondary schools who are ill prepared, yet we expect them to do well.
If the problems are not corrected at the right level, we will be perpetuating a system in which thousands of our students will be graduating from grade 11 illiterate, innumerate and without any skill, resulting in serious consequences to our society. We need to be more preventative and less proactive.
Instead of investing heavily in CAP, some of the funds would be better spent in providing the resources and equipment in many of the technical and vocational laboratories in our schools, many of which do not have the required facilities to properly deliver the subject matter.
Resources should be provided at the appropriate time, while the students are in school, ready and motivated to learn. Why wait until the end of grade 11 when frustration sets in, interest is lost, and age is catching up on our students? Why wait, then later waste?
The partial introduction in the 2016-17 school year of the National Standard Curriculum for Grades 1-9 and the Alternative Pathways to Secondary Education (APSE), after years of development, by ESTP of the Ministry of Education is certainly timely and a step in the right direction.
After wide consultation with stakeholders, extensive research, detail and relevant planning in teaching, learning and assessment, the curriculum was developed to respond to the needs of the different 21st-century learners. Grades 1-9 was deliberate; a bottom-up approach, (not a top-down), which will result in proper articulation between grades, better learning outcomes, superior students, less waste and, ultimately, a better citizenry.