Sat | Dec 2, 2023

Letter of the Day | Recalibrating the education system

Published:Wednesday | August 10, 2022 | 12:06 AM


Annually, Jamaican students, especially those at the elementary level, go through stress and sometimes trauma when the PEP results are published. The pressure point during the school year is very high, as they are expected to be super performers. Most parents desire that their child go to some Ivy League schools across the nation but, alas, the pickings are few. When not selected these students tend to become demotivated and demoralised.

Some schools receive extraordinary appropriations to maintain their status quo, while others are stigmatised because of their location. As a result, many schools unfairly tie the quality of children’s public education to family income.

Jamaica, in this post-COVID era, should begin to take a look at how and where children are placed for schooling. Every school should be given an opportunity to excel as regional schools. When we take all the brilliant children and send them to a particular school and bundle all the others who are rated as second-, third- or fourth-class into other subpar schools, we are sending a wrong message. We are playing with the psyche of our children, and even allowing some to be paralysed with self-esteem issues. In my opinion, there should be equity in the education system. All schools should receive the same amount of subvention per child, so that the staff can have resources for academic delivery.

What successive governments have been doing is to have name changes, but not substantive change. I came up under what was called the Scholarship Exam, then there was the Common Entrance, then the Grade Nine Achievement Test, Grade Six Achievement Test, and now we have Primary Exit Profile (PEP). It seems to me, the more things change the more they remain the same. The question that baffles is, what is the difference with each? The education ministry seems to be applying band-aids to a system that needs radical surgery. Our adaptation of a colonial, British approach to education stymies growth and evolution. Students should go to schools in their designated geographic zones. No student should be travelling miles across parishes to go to a school because they did not get a specified maximum score. Some students have to pay high fares to get to school that have bad ratings because the students who are there are marginalised and stigmatised. Even the teachers feel frustrated and offer lacklustre performance.

There is an economic and sociological cost to the hodgepodge way the education system in Jamaica operates. We need a system where students are given equal opportunity, the same quality of educational exposure, regardless of their geographic region and their socio-economic background. This could be a great 6oth Independence gift to the people of Jamaica.