Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Letter of the day | The real issue affecting learning

Published:Monday | January 20, 2020 | 12:23 AM


The Sunday Gleaner of January 12, 2020, carried an article by Dr Alfred Dawes, titled ‘The Patois problem’. In it, he pointed out the impracticability of making Patois the official language of instruction in schools. He also pointed out the limitation it would pose in dealing with the outside world.

On Wednesday, January 15, 2020, The Gleaner carried a rather turgid response in the editorial, titled ‘Don’t mock Miss Lou’s language’. The editorial claimed, among other things, that the defence against Patois by the elites is mounted out of fear of losing their anachronistic standards.

And, in Saturday’s Gleaner, January 18, 2020, Ms Carmen Y. Nelson, in an article titled ‘Solving the Patois problem’, advocated teaching Patois and English simultaneously and eventually transition to English. A solution that is extant, especially among the schools with the highest level of language challenge.

The basis of the position of the ‘Patoisists’ is the poor performances of a large section of our students. However, according to science, learning language is a part of a child’s brain chemistry; he/she is built to absorb information. Studies further show that the best time to learn a new language is between birth and age seven years. This clearly debunks the arguments of the Patoisists and forces us to look for the real cause of the poor performances of a large number of our students.


The real issue affecting most of our students is neglect; neglect by successive governments. If you take a good look at the performances of children of well-appointed schools as opposed to students of other schools, you can not honestly insist the problem is a language one.

Various governments have spent humongous amounts of money on building highways, on the pretext of facilitating business commute; all of this to the woeful neglect of our schools and certain communities.

It is sad to say, if the government(s) do not change their vision, soon all who you will have travelling on those highways are criminals.

I agree with Dr Dawes that the vast amount of money that would be required to implement the programmes of the Patoisists would be better spent fixing and equipping our schools and certain communities.