Letter of the Day: Don't rush into school zoning
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The decision by the Ministry of Education to place students who sat the annual Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) in schools closer to their homes is most commendable. However, we need to examine all the pros and cons of such a move before it becomes the general policy.
The placing of students in schools in their geographical area should only come after the State can guarantee minimum standards for all our schools. The education ministry's intended zoning policy clearly has its benefits, one of which is to curtail the long distances some students travel daily to and from school.
In many Jamaican families, there is a culture of sending their children to specific schools, in keeping with tradition. Therefore, placing a student in a school closer to his/her home may not necessarily be in the best interest of the student.
DO NOT LIMIT THE EXPERIENCE
Students who live in depressed communities should not be placed in any high school in their community. The experiences of such students are limited to begin with, and when they are placed in schools in the those areas, such students do not benefit as much from that wider experiential mix that they could have garnered had they been placed outside of the comfort zone of their community. We should also be careful that this policy is not viewed as discriminatory, as most of the better-performing schools are located in areas where the income levels are higher than those communities where the lower-performing schools are sited.
The notion of failing schools is not only a public-perception issue; it is a fact that is documented by the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) Unit of the Ministry of Education, which is mandated to inspect all schools.
According to the 2014 National Education Inspectorate report, more than 60 per cent of the country's primary and secondary schools are failing in their education delivery. With more than half of all our schools failing, the rush to get into a good school remains intense. That's why parents and guardians try to do all within their powers to ensure that their children are placed at high-performing schools, even if it means travelling long distances.
The distance that students travel to and from school cannot be the only deciding factor in determining what is in the best interest of the student. The Ministry of Education needs to embark on a consultative approach on this matter before signing off on this issue.