Not so fast, Ruel Reid...
The Editor, Sir:
I read with interest Ruel Reid's article in The Gleaner on January 24, arguing 'Why we must change the Caribbean's education system'. I believe that an awful lot of the debate about education isn't troubled with such inconvenient things as facts. So, while it is gratifying that Mr Reid is clamouring for change in the Caribbean's education system, change must be informed by good quantitative research.
Evidence-based education in Jamaica is not the driver of change, as compared with medicine or law. In the case of education, everyone is an expert because everyone has had prolonged and intimate experience of it. Teaching is cursed by personal prejudice and anecdote. Where is the evidence, as it relates to Jamaica (not Finland) that the 'Jamaican learner' would perform better using the Finnish model, as Mr Reid argued?
Is the measure of how many students pass five or more CSEC subjects a single factor for the 'system' to change? I believe not. Education is far more complex than that. There are many variables at work, some peculiar to Jamaica. It is for this reason that the findings of commissioned research, led by education practitioners, must be central to the debate leading to change. For example, let us seek to measure, by research, if the City and Guilds of London Institute programmes are a suitable alternative to CSEC. I believe it is, having taught students matriculating from both CSEC and City and Guilds programmes but, of course, this is anecdotal and nostrum in thinking. We need solid research to verify this and a sea-change to evidence-based analysis to enact meaningful education policies.
It is not just practitioners but politicians who need to take educational research seriously. After all, which politician would want to say their policies were not based on evidence? Hence the reason why respected academics and others are asked to advise politicians on policies. Of course, I appreciate that when looking for evidence there is always the question of, "Whose evidence?" And even where researchers agree on the evidence, there can be different views on what to do with it. The debate continues but let it be informed by the best available evidence.
I am, etc.,
PROFESSOR GOSSETT OLIVER
Research and Entrepreneurship
The University of Technology, Jamaica