Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Letter of the day: Don't celebrate yet for Edwin Allen High

Published:Friday | February 5, 2016 | 12:00 AM


We write in reference to an article published on January 28, 2016, quoting Dr Everton Walters, the current principal of Edwin Allen High, on the performance of the school in English language and mathematics based on the recent Gleaner rankings.

As past students, we feel that comments such as "we are reaping the benefits", "did not happen by chance", etc, do not reflect the level of performance and accomplishment expected of the school.

The article rightly noted that Edwin Allen was named after the first minister of education of independent Jamaica but omitted the fact that this was the first comprehensive high school in the island. As a comprehensive school, it was set up to cater to students in grammar and vocational studies. We are of the view that the principal appears too glad and possibly mistaken in his belief that the school is doing very well.

We are sure that the school has done much better in the past and now appears to be performing at a level that should force the principal to be more careful not to be too gleeful. This is not to downplay the work of the teaching staff.

Based on the Gleaner data, the principal appears to have been pleased at Edwin's top-10 finish in English and mathematics among upgraded high schools. However, a deeper look at the actual performance raises different issues. For example, Edwin Allen placed 10th for English A with a three-year average-quality score of 702, way off the 1,142 racked up by Mona High, which placed first. For maths, Edwin Allen was eighth, with a quality score of 383, again below Mona, who topped the upgraded list with 815.

We accept a number of truths. Edwin Allen is a very large high school of more than 2,000 students and has an urgent need for more classroom space. Many of the students placed at the school were not among the best-performing GSAT students and came with several learning deficiencies.




The teachers are to be commended for their efforts to add value over a period of five to seven years. Many of the problems are systemic and not unique to Edwin Allen. Nonetheless, questions have to be asked of the leadership of Edwin Allen, and it starts with the board and the principal.

The school was established 52 years ago under the comprehensive concept, and Dr Walters, with his comments, appears to give the impression that perhaps despite the challenges, the school's performance could not have been better. Some of the other upgraded high schools were established later than Edwin but are performing much better.

The welcome rise of Denbigh and Mona high schools, faced with the same challenges of Edwin Allen, should force Dr Walters to contextualise his glee. Those newly established schools would no doubt have taken after the Edwin Allen comprehensive model. So what is happening at Edwin Allen?

Edwin Allen performs excellently in athletics, but that does not begin to define the school. The education ministry, too, must look into the comprehensive concept and the performance of Edwin Allen. We are willing to help, and raising the issue here is part of the process.