The breakdown of discipline in schools has moved a group of sixth-form students at St Andrew High School for Girls to call for the immediate inclusion of values and attitudes in the education curriculum.
The students, who were participants in the Gleaner-Island Grill Youth Editors' Forum series yesterday, said positive values and attitudes could help to shape the minds of a new generation of critical thinkers.
Ashlie Barrett suggested it would be best to teach good values and attitudes at the primary level.
She said helping children to understand what is right and what is wrong at an early age would serve them in the long run.
"We should try to kind of bend the tree while it is young," she reasoned.
TIME TO STEP UP
Pointing to the breakdown of the basic family structure across the society, Kerri-Ann Bell said the school community "should step up" and teach students what is right.
"Teach them how to be a lady or a gentleman. The school need to play that role in uplifting our youths," said Bell.
"These values and attitudes have a way of subconsciously becoming a part of our way of life and therefore can help us to contribute positively to society," said sixth-former Zahra Henry.
She added: "I believe that values and attitudes must definitely be institutionalised in our schools."
While agreeing with her schoolmates, Geneille Williams argued that a majority of students know how to conduct themselves but are reluctant to do so.
She said having values and attitudes as part of the curriculum would help these students.
"They would have a chance to really think about it and ensure that it becomes a part of their day-to-day life," Williams explained.
Samantha Williams, the school's head girl, said schools are focusing too much on just academics.
"We need to focus more on the whole person instead of preparing them for CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) and CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination) and then we just send them off," said Williams.
NEED MORE THAN KNOWLEDGE
"We need to start implementing visions and moral programmes because clearly it's not enough when we just send them off with the knowledge," Williams added.
The young women from St Andrew High seem to be in sync with the thinking of the ministries of Education and Investment and Commerce, as the agencies on Tuesday launched the Jamaica Re-socialisation Programme (JRP).
The JRP is designed to be a high-priority strategic intervention programme aimed at transforming the values and attitudes of the entire population, with a special focus on students.
Clement Radcliffe, chief education officer at the education ministry, yesterday told The Gleaner that the ministry is moving to implement soft skills programmes in schools.
NEED FOR GENTLER SOCIETY
"We must develop a calmer and gentler society in which soft skills are promoted and that was the basis on which we re-introduced the civics programme and ensure that it was a success. Secondly, we are emphasising the need for vocational programmes in our schools," he said
Meanwhile, Grace McLean, the acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, said the curriculum is designed to meet students' needs from all spectrums, but said it's left to individual schools to ensure its application.
"Teachers would have to ensure that they don't only enforce academics, but they find ways to ensure that they address all aspects of the curriculum because the aim of the ministry is develop students holistically," McLean said.