THE EDITOR, Sir:
Since we are a nation that believes in brand names and tradition, why not use them to our advantage? Here are my suggestions (as there's no one solution):
1 Follow what the universities are doing. Expand some of the traditional high schools by adding other campuses in rural areas, e.g., Ocho Rios needs a good boys' school, so Jamaica College or Calabar can have another campus in that region. Our boys would be motivated to join long-standing traditions. Transfer all the benefits, culture, branding, etc, to attract children in those areas. Have teachers visit as guest instructors so that the schools can maintain the same level of expectations.
2 UPGRADE the standards of technical schools and incorporate specialisation in today's relevant technical skills. For example, focus on construction at every level, computer science, culinary science, performing arts, and sports.
3 COURT the Church to be more involved. In order to bring back our children from the grasp of negative social behaviours, encourage church leaders to play a more active role in school administration.
4 Though it may seem to many parents like an impossible scenario to consider, it may be beneficial to REVIVE the boarding system. Where necessary, keep the children off the road, cut down on daily travel and concentrate on instilling discipline.
5 RESEARCH what Caribbean and international neighbours are doing with their schools. Trinidad, like the United States and Canada, uses the regional placement system. This means that there is an attempt to equalise school quality. Families can relocate in confidence.
6 ABOLISH the one-off GSAT. How they perform throughout elementary school will decide their fate. This means that a child won't have to worry about a daunting exam that may demoralise him and his parents.
7 TRANSFORMATION is required by building new schools, merging some schools and closing some schools. Change is a very easy word to comprehend, but very big to digest. Unfortunate, non-performing schools located in undesirable areas with uninspiring reputations need to be either closed or relocated. If parents are being made to understand that they must accept placements, they have to be worth the effort.
8 We should EXPLORE and ADAPT. The infrastructure must change. The PTA, alumni, and others must come together to raise the will and the funds to maintain school infrastructure.
If the Jamaican Government can implement some of these measures, it can be accountable and can justify the placement restriction to the region in which students live.
OTMAR G. MELHADO