No need for regional sixth-form colleges
THE EDITOR, Sir:
With the proliferation of sixth forms in the early 1970s and what could be considered the underutilisation of scarce resources, community colleges were established under the leadership of then education minister, the late Sir Howard Cooke.
Excelsior, Knox, Montego Bay and Brown's Town community colleges were established to offer post-O' Level programmes. As such, students were guided to one of the four colleges to pursue their A' Level programmes. It should be noted that these community colleges were strategically placed to cover the island.
The community colleges have distinguished themselves as the leaders in preparing students for post-O' Level programmes. This was evident in the number of top awards the students received from the various examination bodies annually, and also the number of students who have gained placement into highly competitive programmes at universities locally, regionally, and internationally. This, in itself, is a testament of the quality of programmes offered in these institutions. The success of these students also speaks to the credibility of human and physical resources. Certainly, this comes at a cost.
The community college system in Jamaica has grown significantly and radically. Currently, there are eight institutions in the community college network offering a variety of programmes, from continuing education to Bachelor's degrees. In addition to the institutions identified earlier, there are Portmore Community College, Moneague College, the College of Agriculture, Science and Education, and Bethlehem Moravian College.
The community colleges are accessible to a wide cross section of learners from all socio-economic backgrounds. Islandwide, there are 21 satellite campuses that are affiliated to at least one of the eight institutions in the community college network.
With the flexibility and adaptability of the various educational and social programmes offered, community colleges are strategically poised to receive students who are desirous of pursuing CAPE subjects. Hence, there is no need for regional sixth-form colleges. Learners are, therefore, not required to leave their communities to access quality education. This in itself is a cost-saving measure for many families.
Community colleges have always been the nucleus providing individuals with that second chance of gaining qualifications in social work, psychology, nursing, management, hospitality, and technical and vocational training related to several occupations, thus making them productive citizens contributing to the country's economy.
Graduates from the community college system are well-rounded. In addition to the high academic standards, the learners have a spiritual mooring and sound ethics, thereby allowing them to become outstanding citizens, not only in Jamaica, but anywhere they live and work. They will be equipped to enter the world of work because of the priority that community colleges place on work experience and community service.
DONNA POWELL WILSON (PhD)
Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica