Wrong move by Ministry of Education on student-athlete transfers - stakeholders
Sports administrators and other interests have weighed in on the recent collaboration between the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) and the Ministry of Education in developing a policy for the transfer of student athletes.
The process aims to cut out the practice of some high schools recruiting students primarily for sporting activities, without giving due consideration to their academic development.
Besides reinforcing the existing transfer regulations put in place by ISSA, the Ministry of Education has sort of made itself a 'clearing house' with a mandatory requirement that it must approve all student-athlete transfers.
The group of sporting specialists, who weighed in on the subject at a recent Gleaner's Editor's Forum, said there was widespread disagreement with the new measures, as they argued that the real issue is bringing all educational institutions in Jamaica on par so that parents and students will be in less of a hurry to seek transfers.
Things to consider
"In deciding to move a child, careful consideration should be given to whether the move is an advantage to the child in the pursuit of higher education and their holistic development," said Maurice Wilson, head coach of the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport track and field programme.
"We hear the arguments that student athletes are being exploited and not encouraged to do work after they are taken into these schools. What is to say that they would not be exploited if they remained at the school where they were placed," Wilson said.
Parents, he said, continue to have a say in where they want their children to go and develop themselves socially, academically and otherwise.
"Schools and parents are in the best position to determine whether their children should be transferred. The leadership of local schools is competent and thoughtful enough to lead and complete the process of student transfers," Wilson said.
Citing examples during his tenure as head coach of 10-time winners of the ISSA GraceKennedy Girls' Championships, Holmwood Technical, Wilson said many of the students who sought transfers to the institution were aware of their sports programme and knew that if they stayed at their former school they would not be as successful, because they did not have an adequate sports programme there.
"Case in point is Schillone Calvert, who was a transfer student from Anchovy High School. She came to Holmwood Technical High School and did extremely well. Persons believe that students who participate in sports are not academically inclined. Jeneve Russell, another of our promising athletes, went to the University of Technology with 10 subjects. We have had past head girls at the institution who were also student athletes," Wilson said.
In outlining the framework, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said the transfer of a student for any reason must follow the normal procedures, as determined by the education regulation (28). He noted that principals of both sending and receiving schools, along with the parent, must sign consent forms before presentation to the ministry for approval of the request to transfer a student.
In considering the request for transfer of a student athlete, the Ministry of Education, he said, will review the student's academic record to determine if he or she is able to cope with the curriculum of the receiving school. Where necessary, before granting approval, the ministry, he said, will ensure that adequate arrangements are put in place to facilitate the academic advancement of the student athlete in the receiving school.
Hubert Lawrence, one of Jamaica's leading track and field experts, believes that more data is needed before a move to end transfers is contemplated. Schools, he said, can be made to provide this data by reporting over a two- or three-year period on the conduct of their sports transfers. To this end, Lawrence indicated that principals have to make sure that their students are educated and become good citizens.
"If it is found that there is any other dishonesty in these transfers, then action could be taken," Lawrence said.
The recruitment of students in high schools based on prowess in sports has been a topical issue , moreso recently. However, according to Corey Bennett, head coach and technical director of the Hydel Group of Schools, the Ministry of Education must accept the fact that persons have choices.
"The Ministry of Education should focus on other things at this time. Students come to school to learn and for holistic development. Many students seek transfers because they are not comfortable where they are placed," Bennett said.