Noel Thompson, Freelance Writer
Dr. Polly Bowes-Howell, chairman of the special education committee with the Jamaica Teachers' Association, says she believes the education system is failing some of the nation's students.
She said on Friday that her beliefs rested mainly on her feelings and experience.
Dr. Bowes-Howell said that while there were pockets of excellence among students, the system was only targeting a fraction of the school population.
"If we are using a method to measure intelligence, we have already identified between three to four per cent of our students who are mentally challenged, which means that they are sub-average intellectual functioning -cognitively they are not able to learn at the rate the normal child learns," she charged.
Against this background, Dr. Bowes-Howell said attention must be paid to the other end of the continuum to determine where was the other three to four per cent of children that could be gifted.
Tending to cognitive needs
"I can guarantee that 80 per cent of children who are engaged in disruptive behaviour in the classrooms, their needs are not being met and we must look at their cognitive needs as well," she said.
Referring specifically to the "gifted and talented children", Dr. Bowes said these were students who were at least two grade levels above their class levels.
"The children who are getting into trouble in the classrooms are the ones who are crying out for help,"she noted.
Meanwhile, speaking on the topic of the 'gifted and talented child', Vivienne Deokoro, founder of the Deokoro Magnate School in Montego Bay, said Jamaicans were known to be gifted people. She said she did not feel that the education system was arresting all the talents and channelling them positively.
"When these gifted children turn up in the system, the teachers are not equipped with enough instructional strategies to deal with the children, so they don't understand them well or where they are coming from. What it results in is that these children become very frustrated and extremely disruptive and become dropouts," Mrs. Deokoro noted.
Mrs. Deokoro is also imploring teachers not to feel threatened to 'leave' the Ministry of Education curriculum and experiment to reach the gifted child, as they cannot be easily compart-mentalised because they do not behave or conform to the norm.