Ronald Thwaites, the education minister, has largely been on the right track in recent months.
He has been demanding better returns on taxpayers' investment in education, including greater effort from teachers. He has the proof of his good deeds: the scars of denunciation by the teachers' union.
Yet, Mr Thwaites may be in danger of losing the plot and ceding ground to those who may not be up to the hard, dedicated effort that will be required to rescue Jamaica's education system from its dismal performance.
Last week, the minister complained about the publication of a ranking of the country's secondary schools by a group called Educatejamaica.org.
The ranking is based on the performance of schools in the 2012 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), rated by the number of their students, from their entire cohort, who, at a single sitting, passed five subjects - including math and English - in the CSEC exams. The five passes in these exams are normally the minimum matriculation requirement for higher education, or ensuring a decent, entry-level job.
Educatejamaica.org's analysis shows that more than 70 per cent of the students, after five years of high school, do not reach this minimum level. Indeed, there are many schools, among the 162 reviewed, where significantly less than one per cent of the students meet this minimum standard.
The data, of course, are no revelation. Similar analyses have been published in the past, and the education ministry itself, sometimes in its policy documents, points to Jamaica's dismal education outcomes.
But the minister would prefer not to have a ranking of schools because, he argues, it embarrasses the poor performers and demotivates them. He also argues about the methodology of the review, but offers little of substance to sustain an objection.
Mr Thwaites, it seems, would prefer to keep the identity of the poor performers secret and engage, at least in public, in a kind of cuddly cajoling. The attitude is reminiscent of his complaint when his predecessor declared a number of high schools as failing.
This newspaper agrees that the identification of poorly performing schools cannot be an end in itself. That has to be accompanied by a programme to fix education.
Disservice to stakeholders
But keeping the identities of these failing schools secret is a disservice to their stakeholders - students, parents and teachers, and to perpetuate a fraud on taxpayers who fund them. They have a right to know what they get for the money they spend and who, specifically, should be held accountable.
For instance, in the absence of such reports, when we talk in generalities about poor education outcomes, specific principals and school boards and the teachers they supervise are able to float below the radar.
Eight years ago, Dr Dennis Minott, of the educational organisation A-Quest, led a far more in-depth research into the performance of Jamaican students in the CSEC and advanced CAPE exams over the period 2001-2004 from which high schools were ranked. Educatejamaica.org's analysis largely confirmed those findings.
The publication of Minott's data, which identified principals, school boards and students councils, engaged people and forced action against poor head teachers. But weak follow-up since then caused people to fall back into bad habits. Jamaica cannot afford such complacency.
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