Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Implementation of school support contribution policy untidy - educators

Published:Tuesday | July 19, 2016 | 7:00 AMAndre Poyser

Public-Relations Officer for the Jamaican Association of Principals of Secondary Schools (JAPSS), Linval Wright, has said the plans for abolishing auxiliary fees have not been fully thought through.

The JAPSS executive was responding to further changes to the policy which now allow schools to request parents' contributions in excess of the $20,000 cap that was previously announced by the Ministry of Education.

"What I feel is happening now is that you implement a policy, then you find that your method of implementation is a bit untidy ... and [when] you find that it is getting untidy, you are trying to tidy up as you go along," the Rusea's High principal told The Gleaner.

Veteran educator Esther Tyson agreed that the policy has not been properly devised and argued that the concept of equality among schools, associated with the removal of auxiliary fees and the introduction of non-obligatory parent contributions, cannot be achieved overnight. Tyson is of the view that the education system has not yet matured to the point where all schools can attain the same levels of achievement in terms of academic and co-curricular activities.

"I don't know that we have reached there yet. Probably one day we will, but I don't see that it can be done overnight ... . Something like that has to be done through a process," she said in an interview with The Gleaner.

Describing the change of name from auxiliary fee to parent contribution as a matter of semantics, she raised concern that the new policy has been forced on schools.

"It is a forced policy and it should have been introduced over a long-term period and there should be a process of getting buy-in from as many stakeholders as possible, you can't dictate it," she added.

DISPARITIES BETWEEN SCHOOLS

Tyson pointed to the disparities between tradition and non-traditional schools, noting that the education ministry has, over the years, struggled to support even the basic programme of some schools.

"If you want to have a real egalitarian system where everybody gets the same offerings, that kind of programme would have to be developed over time ... . It cannot be forced," she said.

The retired principal suggested that schools will face significant funding challenges as the ministry seeks to absorb costs for core services for all schools under the new regime of non-obligatory parent contributions.

The Ministry of Education has, by its communiquÈ to principals, anticipated that some schools will not have enough funds for their operations under the new policy.

"Schools falling short of funds during the course of the year would also be able to write to the permanent secretary, requesting consideration for additional support to close the deficit. This letter must be accompanied by all the supporting documentation," a bulletin sent to principals read.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com