The recent cancellation of the CAPE 2013 physics grades of 70 Jamaica College students should be a wake-up call for the entire country. It is too serious to be written off as just a private concern for Jamaica College and its stakeholders.
We will also be making a serious mistake if we treat this issue as a proverbial nine-day wonder. We need to see this situation for what it really is - a symptom of an overall severe moral crisis which is threatening to envelop our education system and eventually the entire nation.
The fact that this situation in question has happened at a premier educational institution which is well known for producing leaders in all spheres of life speaks volumes to what is happening not only with our educational processes but also the moral state of our nation.
The wrongdoing of the staff in question is quite obvious. The students were not only pointed in the wrong direction but they were also robbed of the character development process that usually takes place when a proper school-based assessment process is engaged.
Students are usually challenged and pushed to be patient, persevering, thorough, hard-working, etc. The development of these attributes usually stays with them for life and prevents them from dropping out of university later on when the pressure is really turned on. Apart from this consideration, there are some other very serious issues to be considered.
If the press reports are accurate, I am alarmed at the failure of the entire 70-student cohort to stand up for what is right and to have the internal fortitude and moral awareness to resist the wrong advice they had received from staff. These are our future leaders and persons of influence, our future business persons, politicians, our future parents, etc., who, having passed through at least 12 years of being educated, did not put up their hands to be counted. Sad, sad, sad!
I am hoping and praying that the parents of these students are not only concerned about the examination grades. I am hoping and praying that they are now reflecting on how they have contributed to the fact that their children not only failed the physics examination, but also failed a test of their character.
Parents must share the responsibility for this breakdown of righteousness in the development of their own children, as the problem did not start at the school. The problem began at home. Parents and guardians must now reflect on what they failed to tell their children who will surely face other opportunities in the future to make such decisions.
TIME FOR REFLECTION
The leaders and managers of Jamaica College must now put aside institutional pride and honestly reflect, as for such a situation to develop, a certain organisational culture must be firmly in place. They will be making a very sad mistake if this issue is treated in isolation from the overall moral condition of the institution.
They must not fool themselves, because these things do not happen just like that. Where there is smoke, there is fire. There would have been the writing on the wall for some time. There would have been a gradual erosion of certain traditional values and principles before the staff in question felt comfortable to take such a chance of directing students to plagiarise.
It is alarming given the fact that if the obviously embittered teacher did not write a letter to the CXC authorities, this situation would have gone unnoticed and the academic achievements of these students would have been celebrated.
Similarly, there is need for a collective response on a national level, and it will be very, very foolish if the rest of the education fraternity who are looking on do not also take time to reflect on our educational processes.
The following questions, therefore, beg to be asked. Are there any more such situations occurring in our schools? If so, how long has it been going on for? How do we respond? Hiding our faces in the sand and hoping that all of this will go away is surely not an option.
I am proposing that we get back to exposing our children to authentic, clearly defined and structured, values-based educational processes. The big focus on academic achievement and passing exams is clearly compromising the moral and attitudinal development of Jamaican children. We have to change!
We have to take note of what C.S. Lewis said to the world some time ago: "To educate a man without morals will only make him a more clever devil." I pray that we will respond to this crisis before it is too late.
Pastor Wesley Boynes is president of the Jamaica Independent Schools Association. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.