Private schools as important as public - Kerr
For their holistic approach to student development, core values in particular, private schools are just as essential to nation building as public schools, according to Kaysia Kerr, head of the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC).
The former head of an independent institution, Kerr said that one of her main takeaways is that private systems aren't centred on pass or failure, but instead, on identifying the deficits within students and plugging them.
The senior educator also stated that private schools have the benefit of stronger partnerships with parents.
"That's not to imply that the public sector doesn't push core values, but private schools emphasise it," Kerr told The Gleaner on Wednesday during the launch of the Jamaica Independent Schools Association Congress of Parents at the Sts Peter and Paul Preparatory School Auditorium.
"They (private schools) drive all the tenets that build character. They promote empathy, integrity, and a sense of industry so children come to appreciate effort as opposed to just a grade. When you employ real effort, you're congratulated for it," Kerr added.
The executive reasoned that the public system was not far behind in this regard, with the partially-implemented National Standards Curriculum (NSC) already effecting change towards constructiveness.
"Every child won't have the same skill set, abilities, interests, or inclinations. But every child can be successful once we figure out who the child is as a learner and push their individual interests, while understanding that not all of them will make the grade, but the effort employed is just as important and should be applauded," Kerr said.
Congress of Parents to focus on children with unique needs
The recently formed Jamaica Independent Schools Association Congress of Parents (JISA COP) should prioritise efforts geared at supporting parents whose children, by virtue of their unique needs, require private education.
JISA COP is a strategic mobilisation of the PTA leaders and parent representatives attached to JISA member schools and the Jamaica Association of Home Schools.
Its objective is to facilitate and support the interests of the private-education sector.
Speaking with The Gleaner on Wednesday during the launch of the JISA COP, chief executive officer of the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC) Kaysia Kerr said that the COP should look at strategic ways in which its schools can forge partnerships with corporate Jamaica to the benefit of struggling parents and their children.
"One of the things I like about our education landscape is that it offers different settings depending on the needs of the child. But at the same time, parents whose children attend private schools are also financially burdened, and independent schools are heavily reliant on tuition. When one child doesn't pay a fee, it has implications for lunches, utilities, and the school programmes."
Ministry strapped for cash
While pointing out that public funds remain open to both public and private parents, Kerr said that the prospect of providing subsidies directly to private schools was not feasible at present as the education ministry was strapped for cash.
"The Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) doesn't discriminate. It's not just for persons in the public system," Kerr explained.
Hundreds of private schools have been shuttered in recent years. Many of them cited an exodus of its students to public schools as the major factor.
To this end, Kerr suggested that merging hard-pressed independent institutions was an option for JISA members to consider.
"Of course, it depends on what the values of a particular school are. Geography is also a factor to be consider, but certainly, if there are synergies, it could be a viable avenue," Kerr reasoned.