Pete Nicely, Guest Columnist
Even though I share the same unique surname with the president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association, I don't know him, nor have I ever met him.
I am responding to the editorial 'Education: blame it on the buses?' in The Gleaner dated September 27, 2013. I find it disingenuous of the editor to cavalierly disregard the comments of Dr Mark Nicely concerning the effects of the loud and lewd music on the attitude and performance of the students riding the minibuses to school.
I read his column in The Gleaner and nowhere in it could it be construed that his argument for the removal of tints and speaker boxes, when taken to its logical conclusion, is "the primary reason why a fifth of Jamaican high-school students finish their education by grade nine", etc.
I, therefore, have to conclude that the editor has less interest in examining ALL the factors that can influence student learning and is more keen on bashing the Jamaican teachers.
Admittedly, Dr Nicely based his opinion on anecdotal evidence from his own experience as a youth riding minibuses, and as an academic myself, I am fully aware that repeated anecdotes are no substitute for data. But that does not mean that his hypothesis should be disregarded.
I would think that, if the editor has Jamaica's interest at heart, he/she would have suggested that some research be undertaken by individuals with the relevant expertise into the effect that loud music on the minibuses has on the learning capabilities of students.
Instead, the editor thought it was again necessary to go into teacher-bashing mode, with the ad nauseam reminders of the general lack of achievement by the products of our public-school system, the students, and placing the responsibility of this state of affairs squarely and solely at the feet of the teachers.
It is not that I disagree with the editor that greater accountability is indeed desirable so that we can realise positive learning outcomes for our students. But based on the Gleaner editorials I have read in the past regarding education in Jamaica, I am yet to see any analysis of the other factors that may affect learning outcomes that any teacher can attest to.
At the risk of engaging in clichés, these include poor attendance by students, poor nutrition, the conditions of the physical plant, and lack of parental responsibility. And these factors clearly militate against the best efforts of teachers. But for some perverse reason, the focus of the editor's criticism is primarily on the teachers.
What makes the editorial even more banal is the suggestion that greater accountability should include pay for performance, where teachers are paid according to their students' examination grades. If the editor had embarked on a casual investigation into this idea, he/she would realise that this has been tried in different forms in different countries for more than a century and a half. And it has never worked.
In the article in the publication Education Leadership titled The Problem with Performance Pay, the author, Donald B. Gratz, gave a historical summary of this issue and concluded that "test-based pay is more useful politically than it is effective educationally".
I would suggest that the editor read this and other related publications so that he can relieve himself of his own ignorance surrounding this issue.
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