Far-reaching reforms needed
The Editor, Sir:
As your publication facilitates a broad discussion on the Jamaican education system, let me again suggest that focus should be on prescription and remedy and not on symptoms. To this end, I offer the following. Until our primary schools significantly improve student readiness for the academic rigours of a college prep high school curriculum, we need to rethink the mission of secondary education.
The majority of our high schools should be designated as comprehensive high schools with multiple missions. First, these schools should provide the traditional and rigorous college prep curriculum for students who display a readiness. Another spoke in the educational wheel should be a vocational programme that mirrors the existing and somewhat successful HEART programme.
Taxpayers have been paying twice to educate students who, having completed secondary school, end up at a HEART Academy to achieve competency in a workforce discipline. Why can this not be achieved at the secondary/high school level? A third mission of these comprehensive high schools would be to provide a developmental education programme between grades seven and nine for students who come with learning deficits, so that by the end of grade nine, the system will be able to more accurately identify the final curriculum students will follow through to 'graduation'.
My recommendations can certainly do with some tweaking given that I may be a bit off with regard to the structure of the secondary system. Further, this is no silver bullet for the much needed far-reaching reform. What is certain is that we cannot continue down the same path.
I have said before, most of the recommendations put forward by the 2004 Dr Rae Davis-led task force are weak and lacking imagination and revolutionary potency. Systemic change is never an easy task, and it is for this reason our education system needs to identify visionary and strong leadership to influence and guide us to the promised land of achieving an educated citizenry. Walk good!
I am, etc.,
Dr RICHARD KITSON- WALTERS