Letter of the day: Don't exploit students
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Oral Tracey, in his column titled 'Student-athlete discrimination' which appeared on March 3, 2015, commented on the guidelines governing the participation of secondary-school students in inter-school sport competitions. I think a good place to start any discussion about inter-school sports is to identify the raison d'Ítre for schools. Schools are not sport clubs established for the entertainment of the public. They are established primarily for the education (read academic training and intellectual development) of students. No subsidiary objective should be allowed to overshadow the primary one.
Tracey provides us with the disturbing statistics on the academic performance of the secondary school system. No one is claiming that sports is responsible for this. Sports and other competitive activities in schools, however, do provide leverage to encourage students to exercise the requisite effort towards their academic development - if you want to represent your school you have to meet a minimum academic standard.
Tracey claims there is an anti-sport bias in insisting on minimum academic standards. The rule does not say that a student must attain a minimum academic standard to play sports - one can play form football or participate at sports day without attaining this level. The rule becomes applicable when one wishes to represent his/her school in an external competition. Most of the co-curricula activities engaged in at secondary schools outside of sports are not geared towards external competitions. In the few instances where they are, such as Schools' Challenge Quiz, Tracey should advocate that minimum academic performance criteria be applied rather than advocating the removal of that standard from inter-secondary-school sporting competitions.
Those who argue that insisting on a minimum academic standard reduces the chances of scholarships are misguided. An academic threshold must be crossed to qualify for a sporting scholarship. Any coach will tell you that an athlete with a developed intellect is more likely to perform better than one without such development. We owe it to our students to help their intellectual development. The majority will not go on to be professional athletes, and those who do are more likely to be successful and able to protect their interests the more developed their intellects are.
I am not against the transfer of students from one school to another. It is, however, exploitative to move a child into a school from which they are unlikely to benefit academically because they are unable to keep pace with the average child in that school.
Department of Economics, UWI (Mona)