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Letter of the Day: Close disconnect with students in classroom

Published:Monday | May 18, 2015 | 5:00 AM

Close disconnect with students in classroom

As a society, we continue to clamour for meaningful transformation of Jamaica's education system. By now we all realise that there is a disconnect between what passes off as education and how this is perceived and received by our students.

The time has come for us to adopt a bottom-up policy approach in moving forward and transforming the education system. We must listen to our students more and use this to plan programmes and policies to inspire and motivate our students.

Student engagement has become one of the new buzzphrases in education. Educators are always bombarded with questions about how they plan to engage their students. However, for many educators, the process of engaging disconnected students becomes more challenging with each academic year.

Engaging disconnected students can be achieved by first addressing the relevance of the content being taught. We must ask ourselves whether the information being taught is relevant to what the student needs to learn. Most students, by the time they reach grade seven, would have formed an opinion about the relevance of many things that are unrelated to learning. Students, indeed people, are egocentric, and what is relevant to the teacher such as curriculum is oftentimes irrelevant to them.

When a skill/concept is taught, an attempt must be made to connect this to what is socially relevant to the level of the students.

Second, in planning our lessons, we must ask ourselves whether the activity or the lesson itself evokes a sense of inquiry or curiosity. Too many teachers continue to use a teacher-centred approach. A student-centred approach encourages more enquiry. Every effort must be made to ensure that all lessons appeal to the sense of natural curiosity.

CHALLENGING

Engaging disconnected students, especially our boys, is indeed very challenging, especially since many boys who display school smarts are often ridiculed as effeminate by peers and even adults in areas where academic excellence by males is typically devalued.

Our students need to see a clear pathway regarding where acquiring an education will put them. We need to remove education from inside the four walls of the classroom and make it more practical if we hope to engage our disconnected students.

Many students who are not academically inclined would benefit more from an apprenticeship system of sorts whereby they are paired with a mentor in their practical area of choice. This could involve weekly field trips to the mentor's place of work to see the real world instead of being stuck in a classroom five days per week.

WAYNE CAMPBELL

waykam@yahoo.com