Fri | Nov 16, 2018

Letter of the Day | Education: Are we there yet?

Published:Tuesday | January 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM


According to Farrant (1980), "Education describes the total process of human learning by which knowledge is imparted, faculties trained, and skills developed" (p. 18). Is our education system actually there? Yes, with each revolving education minister of education, the oral mandate is about developing skills, and the last I heard is "critical thinking". But has critical thinking been exercised in each school with well-worn educators and scarce resources?

Where are we with the National Standards Curriculum that was implemented two summers ago? I am a strong supporter of the launch of the NSC, where the thrust of delivery was to make the school environment learner-friendly, utilising the student-centred approach.

What is the NSC, you may ask? It is a new curriculum for grades one to nine that was launched in summer 2016 with a series of regional workshops. It is teaching concept and content that is supported through the use of ICT, especially for teachers who would utilise the Internet along with high-tech gadgets to help with the transfer and sharing of updated information within the 21st-century classroom.

The ministry pulled out all the stops to train school administrators in the importance of and the use of the Internet. At the end, students should have been allowed to take to schools their smart gadgets to interface with the schools' servers, which would give support in the delivery of the new curriculum.

Here was an opportunity to have tablets, notebooks, Kindles, and smartphones, used in a constructive way for students and their facilitators to interact and share content, messages, and assignments. While there were cheers from many tech-savvy teachers who bought into the vision, there were still many that have encountered the following issues:

- Many schools do not have access to the Internet.

- The policy ban on cell phones and other tech gadgets has not been altered for some traditional high school;

- Many teachers are afraid to embrace technology and are still using 19th century methods;

- The Tablets in Schools Initiative that was launched in 2014 and relaunched in 2017 has still not met the expectations of many educators;

- Lack of infrastructure to accommodate the Internet that would facilitate the implementation of the NSC.

- Some schools have not received the updated copies of the NSC guides, thus creating waves of uncertainty in the minds of the educators.

So let us examine these questions:

- Is the knowledge being imparted as it should in a conducive productive learning environment?

- Are all the schools at the same level with the NSC?

- Are all the teachers ready to embrace 21st-century approaches in the classroom?

- Are the principals and teachers willing to change policies and arrange for professional development seminars to be current with the use of ICT?

- Is the ministry willing to give tech support to schools that are in need of it?

I am sure that suggestions have been offered to assist in the continued success of the new curriculum, but consider these proposals:

- Have termly meetings with subject teachers in a regional setting to give direct feedback from the practitioners utilising the new curriculum.

- Send ICT technicians to maintain the equipment/to ensure constant and consistent access to relevant data.

- Collect data from student surveys on the various subjects, which helps in the alignment of content with students' needs and ministry's goals.

- Involve corporate Jamaica in investing in schools that do not have ICT to bring them in line with other institutions.

- Revise content and method of delivery to ensure that all levels of students can be reached.

Lyssette Hawthorne-Wilson