Launtia Cuff, Gleaner Writer
With much focus being placed on the need for literacy not only in schools, but for all Jamaicans, Elaine Oxamendi Vicet, associate professor at Northern Caribbean University, has suggested that there needs to be a change in the way literacy training is approached by teachers.
The last STATIN report in 1999 showed that only approximately 64.8 per cent of St Elizabeth adults - age 15 and over by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's definition - were literate.
"We will, therefore, continue to face a challenge in society, in our classrooms, in our homes, in our church, on the streets, if we do not do things different. This is our challenge. Thirty-five per cent of adults in the parish of St Elizabeth are illiterate. That certainly is not a proud moment for persons in the parish of St Elizabeth. We must do something different," she said. Oxamendi Vicet was speaking at the International Literacy Day function held at the St Elizabeth Parish Library recently.
The change, she said, has to begin from the earliest level of literacy training and should include the removal of reading corners from the classrooms, and instead, every area of the learning space should reflect an emphasis on reading.
"I challenge us to redefine the space in our learning environment. Our classrooms need to reflect a reading environment, and I am challenging our teachers to take reading from being in a corner, and instead, every area in the classroom reflects a reading environment. Most students and teachers associate corners with punishment. We send the student to the corner as a punishment with their back to the class," Oxamendi Vicet told Rural Xpress.
Oxamendi Vicet challenged teachers to take a second look at how much time is dedicated to reading. She said teachers are sometimes focused on the completion of a syllabus or passing the Grade Four Literacy Test, and then GSAT, and then CXC. She said much attention had been given to the Grade Four Literacy Test results but said that if there was to be an overall improvement in literacy in the country, there needed to be much more focus outside of those test results.
"Jamaicans are empowered to achieve their fullest potential, but how is that to be possible, with 71 per cent of our students passing the Grade Four Literacy Test?"
She added that more individuals needed to learn the value of literacy as some individuals were so caught up with making money that they failed to recognise that being literate could only improve their efforts to do so.
"Our citizens need to know more than just how to make dollars-and-cents change and be proud saying, 'You can't fool mi wid money'. Educators, how are we to advance if literacy is not seen as a critical part of the solution? Being literate, simply put, saves lives. It improves reasoning ability," she said, adding that literacy can open many doors of opportunity for individuals and, in turn, effect a transformation of the Jamaican society.
improve the circumstance
Oxamendi Vicet said there must be a change in our attitude towards literacy and how literary skills are taught. She believes the country, collectively, has a responsibility to improve the circumstance of every child and adult to ensure that they have literacy skills that will enable them to exploit opportunities in the future and to be responsible citizens."
Teachers, she said, must begin teaching to facilitate the transformation of the Jamaican society by starting with a corporate attitude towards literacy and how those skills are taught. She urged teachers not just to teach to pass exams and improve school ratings, but to adopt a system of education that transforms lives.