LETTER OF THE DAY - Greater Government support needed for private schools
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Every year, sensational studies are published that show Jamaican preparatory schools leading the way in the job of educating the nation's children and, in particular, excelling as far as the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) results are concerned.
The results of the polls are flying in the face of those who may want us to believe that private institutions are generally abusing students, overcharging their clients and running away with exam fees because of the few bad apples in our midst who may misrepresent private education from time to time.
These polls are sweet news to my ears because they only serve to justify my position that in the name of nation building and ensuring the success of Jamaica, the Government of Jamaica and the private sector should purposefully seek out strategies to come into investment partnerships with private education institutions that have established a track record of excellence.
Invest in what works
Private schools have been consistently performing and producing the desired results, some of them for the better part of the last 100 years. Now is the time to see how we can get more Jamaican children into private schools.
Government investment must be considered to ease the great economic challenges that many private schools currently face. I am not calling for handouts. Government can at least consider channelling the education tax collected from the parents of our private-school students to some kind of investment or partnership with private institutions.
In the recent history of Jamaica, we have seen public funds invested in some very strange and controversial entities that do not match private schools' contribution to national development. If these schools are almost always producing the goods, we have to find ways to keep them strong and to assist them to expand.
Not just about GSAT
The bitter aspect of these polls is the unfortunate and narrow-minded view that private schools - especially the prep schools - are all about passing GSAT. I want to make it abundantly clear that success in GSAT is just one of the offerings of private schools. Truth be told, in light of the social challenges which are currently facing the nation, academic success is the least of the benefits that generally come with the private-school package.
Many private schools offer an environment that facilitates the holistic development of students, so there is a consistently strong moral and spiritual input. This opportunity to develop in such an environment is of great value and is much more important than high marks at the GSAT. This is why, for example, there is generally a minimum number of reports of disruptive behaviour, acts of sexual perversion, drug abuse and disrespect to staff members from private-education institutions.
Many private schools also establish and insist on high moral standards for teachers. This makes a huge difference in building the culture of private-school excellence.
WESLEY C. BOYNES
President, Jamaica Independent Schools Association