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Lascelve Graham | Education and sports: Jamaica versus the world

Published:Sunday | December 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Lascelve Graham

Recently, in an article in the Observer of December 1, 2016 dealing with recruiting at Jamaica College, it was mentioned that another school that recruits heavily for sports purposes is Wolmer's Boys' School.

The principal of Wolmer's is the president of ISSA, the controlling body for high-school sports in Jamaica. ISSA comprises principals of our high schools, educators of the highest level. It is alleged that many of the executives of ISSA are principals of schools numbered among those that draft the most youngsters based on sporting ability. The minister of education was for many years the principal of JC.

It is taken for granted now that schools that do well at the popular sports events, especially Champs and schoolboy football competitions such as the FLOW, daCosta and Manning cups, are the ones that recruit heavily for sports purposes. It is said that some schools end up with football squads or a very large percentage thereof, which have been recruited. Since it appears that a number of our highly ranked educators are involved in bringing in youngsters to their schools based on sports ability, it is worth looking at this practice in light of what is happening elsewhere in education.


Economic significance


In the USA, the only country of economic significance with a strong link between sports and education at the high-school level, educators do their utmost to dissuade schools from this practice. For example, below is part of the by-laws of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), which runs the Penn Relays and which has responsibility for high-school sports in Pennsylvania.

"Section 8. Recruiting: One of the purposes of this article is to deter recruiting which is materially motivated in some way by an athletic purpose. "Recruiting for athletic purposes is directly contrary to the fundamental interests of PIAA and its member schools, and any school engaged in such conduct should do so with the expectation that it will be treated harshly upon proof of such conduct. Recruiting, which is materially motivated in some way by an athletic purpose, is contrary to the fundamental objectives of:

"(1) Keeping athletics in their proper place and subordinate to academics; (2) protecting student-athletes from 'exploitation' by adults and those having interests which might not be consistent with those of the student; (3) maintaining competitive equity and a level playing field among PIAA member schools.

"Recruiting that is materially motivated in some way by an athletic purpose is defined as efforts by a school, or any of its employees, agents, or representatives, to engage in, support, or condone conduct whereby a motivating factor is to seek out one or more athletes to attend a particular school; to promote a school's athletic programme or personnel other than as part of the overall programme at the school; and/or, to provide preferential treatment or attention to prospective enrollees who are athletes."

In the USA, the National Association of State Boards of Education has taken the stance that sports in high school is a privilege that students must earn in an attempt to emphasise the primacy of academics and to improve the academic outcomes for students.

What is so different in Jamaica to make the fundamental principles outlined above null and void inapplicable?

The results for the test administered by the OECD to 15-year-olds (PISA) were recently published and commented on by the BBC. Below are excerpts:

"Pisa tests: Singapore top in global education rankings

"Singapore has the highest achieving students in international education rankings, with its teenagers coming top in tests in maths, reading and science. The influential Pisa rankings, run by the OECD, are based on tests taken by 15-year-olds in more than 70 countries. OECD education director Andreas Schleicher said Singapore was 'not only doing well, but getting further ahead'.




"The US has again failed to make progress. 'We're losing ground - a troubling prospect when, in today's knowledge-based economy, the best jobs can go anywhere in the world,' said US Education Secretary John King.

"So why is Singapore so successful at education?

"Singapore only became an independent country in 1965. And while in the UK, the Beatles were singing We Can Work It Out, in Singapore they were really having to work it out, as this new nation had a poor, unskilled,mostly illiterate workforce.The small Asian country focused relentlessly on education as a way of developing its economy and raising living standards. From being among the world's poorest, with a mix of ethnicities, religions and languages, Singapore has overtaken the wealthiest countries in Europe, North America and Asia to become the number one in education."

"Since achieving its objectives in education, Singapore has declared its intention to become the sports hub of Asia."

Are the actions of so many of our schools (specialised educational institutions), with respect to recruiting for sports purposes, symptomatic of a relentless focus on education?

- Lascelve Graham is a chemist and a former Jamaica football captain. Email feedback to and