Sat | Feb 22, 2020

Letter of the Day | Stop overloading brains of 7-y-os

Published:Wednesday | September 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM


While we debate the virtues of PEP versus GSAT, a glaring problem with what students at the primary level are expected to learn is being ignored.

I have just been shown a text for grade two (seven-year-olds) integrated studies, which had me thinking that the writers were out of touch with the curriculum until I saw a draft from the Ministry of Education. I was taken aback to see what these young minds are expected to learn. It appears as if someone got the idea that seven-year-olds are to be prepared to become Hippocrates.

If not, what value is there in having them learn the role and function of the heart, brain and skeleton? Based on the activities, parents will have to purchase or make stethoscopes. Grade two students will be listening to their classmates' heartbeat and comparing frequency. And these are only a few of the objectives and activities.

The content is so weighty that many parents might end up with cardiac arrest themselves. It is frightening! How must children from deprived homes or who live in deep-rural Jamaica where technology does not exist fulfil the requirement to view a 3D model of these body parts? Should seven-year-olds be made to do computer research, period? Pity the teacher who did not study biology. Based on the curriculum, he/she will be learning while teaching the class.

If in the first term, at grade two, before they can spell the word 'skeleton', they are learning about its role and function, I can't imagine what they will HAVE to know by grade six! No wonder many of them suffer burnout through information overload by the time they get to high school.

Too much emphasis is placed on content in primary school. Skills with the objective of developing listening, following instructions and directions, using sentences to express themselves orally and in writing are not being emphasised.


Brains Clogged


Not enough attention is paid to inculcating in these young minds the social skills they need to help them interact with their peers and adults as they grow. Their brains are clogged with information they will learn in the higher grades before they have mastered the fundamentals of literacy and numeracy.

Much of the failings in the teaching and learning outcomes in our schools relate not only to the 'how' but also the 'what' being taught. Misplaced focus is rampant throughout Jamaica's primary-school education, and if the curriculum is not suitable, PEP will not correct the deficiencies of GSAT.

Should the education minister spend some time perusing the curricula, his time would be more profitably spent instead of policing school attire.