'Change the curriculum!'
Anastasia Cunningham, Senior Gleaner Writer
EDUCATORS believe there needs to be a total revision of the school curriculum, from early-childhood through to the secondary level in order for Jamaica to produce a more literate populace.
Speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday, Ruel Reid, principal of Jamaica College, said a radical approach was needed in order to effect reform. Acknowledging that a review was already under way at the early childhood and primary phases, he said at the secondary level across the Caribbean, there was no common curriculum for grades seven to nine.
"In fact, there is a major dis-connect between the primary and the secondary and it is not even standardised. We need to have a full curriculum almost in line with what you see in other countries and move away from syllabus-driven exams to a curriculum. We need to design a high school curriculum with all the skills, cognitive, affective behaviour, physco motor, all the things that you will need of a high-school graduate and then you end up with a high-school diploma," he said.
Edward Seaga, chancellor of University of Technology, also agreed that the curriculum has omitted a number of areas of proper understanding of the child, such as values, attitude, nutrition, behaviour and ethics, which were essential to their growth and development.
He said the fact that they have tackled the problem of not allowing students below average to enter the secondary-school system showed that "there is some light flowing into the room".
He added, however, that a better solution would have been if the education ministry had started the reform from the early phase, beginning with the first two years of primary school.
"Those children who go into the primary school in the first year are given a readiness test and 30 per cent are found capable to receive further education, while the other 70 per cent are not," said Seaga.
"The fact of the matter is, it's not the things that we think are wrong with education is the problem. The problem is that they can't function with the three 'Rs' - reading, writing and arithmetic. If you don't have those three skills when you go into the primary-education system, you can't follow the teacher, so the teacher is teaching the 30 per cent. What happens to the other 70 per cent?"
With regard to those who have already gone through the system and still lacked basic educational skills, the former prime minister said, "I would not allow them to graduate as idiots. Pull them out and devote the two or three years that you weren't able to do in the beginning and let them graduate with the three Rs and a solid foundation. Whatever else you can add to that is fine, but let them get those three Rs."