R. Howard Thompson, Guest Columnist
Dr Lascelve Graham, in an article ('Schools must take up slack of socialisation') in The Gleaner of October 30, 2013, has made some good points about the need to use schools as instruments of socialisation to do the job that is not being done by homes.
This is a point which I have made over and over in letters to the newspapers. We inherited a system developed by traditional high schools which had been based on the assumption that students came from stable middle-class homes where they had a scheduled lifestyle of work, study and play to support the classroom experience they received at school.
Sports had been part of the education process in which everyone participated. Those of us not talented enough to make the Manning Cup or daCosta Cup teams were able to experience the rigour of formal competition by playing on house teams and form teams. That hardly exists anymore.
What I would point out to Dr Graham, however, is that the same approach exists in academics. Weaker students are screened out from schools on the basis of GSAT grades and sent, oftentimes several miles, to other schools to do the same subjects with fewer contact hours. This is all being done to preserve pass rates at the brand-name schools which want to win the CSEC Cup.
This mentality has developed a counterproductive pedagogical attitude where 'good teachers', in 'good schools', do not want to teach weak students. Some schools even bar some students from sitting exams, including English and math.
Right now, there are a number of schools which have prevented students from registering to take CXC subjects at fourth form because it does not show up in the statistics used to rank schools, (which is only one of many reasons why the method used to rank schools is invalid).
However, the fact that a child does not pass a subject does not mean that he or she did not gain something useful from doing it. Education is not just for bright students, and the teachers who have bright students have the easier job to do.
A lot of the indiscipline about which we complain has its genesis in the time being spent by students outside the school travelling between various areas of the country and city, unsupervised by any responsible adult. Parents have to work and are often away from home till late in the evening. Their children know this and take it as an opportunity to enjoy themselves on the streets, often among young adults of questionable character. Even those who do go home rarely use their time productively.
Generic School System Needed
We need a generic school system that simply places students where it is most convenient for them to be educated. We would then be able to develop programmes that keep them in an organised learning environment for longer periods. Teachers could work on a staggered shift system so that they are available for duty on the evenings when they are required.
We could use the media more effectively. Exposing students to good documentaries and even good movies which they would not normally select to watch at home would certainly help. Brighter students could act as group leaders going through math or English worksheets, while sports competitions could become another weekly activity in which students learn teamwork, and develop courage and other worthwhile qualities.
At the centre of the transformation process should be a plan to zone schools. It cannot all be done at once, but in stages, until we reach the point where GSAT is sat by students after they have been placed and used, as it should be, as an instrument of assessment for learning.
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