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LETTER OF THE DAY - What's a high-school diploma worth?

Published:Friday | June 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I note with interest the recent announcement at a function by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites that dropouts will soon get the chance to earn their high-school diploma through a partnership of the e-Learning Project, the Jamaica Library Service and the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning.

Minister Thwaites promised to provide further details on the initiative at a later date. However, I am left to wonder what has prompted Minister Thwaites to so move when a similar initiative, the High School Equivalency Programme (HISEP), was launched in 2006 to begin that September, after going through a pilot phase in 2004. Was that programme discontinued or deemed a failure?

HISEP was developed as a joint initiative involving the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education, the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning, the HEART Trust/National Training Agency, and the then Ministry of Education and Youth.

Like the initiative announced by Minister Thwaites, HISEP was designed to give high-school dropouts a second chance at a secondary-level education, focusing on several subject areas: language and communication, literature, culture and the arts, mathematics, science and technology, and society and citizenship. The successful completion of HISEP would earn the learners a high-school equivalency diploma.

Although I was very supportive of HISEP, as I am of this supposedly new but basically similar initiative by Minister Thwaites, what exactly would be the purpose of one obtaining such a diploma, especially when the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams are really what tertiary institutions and employers typically require or use to evaluate applicants?

No wide-scale standard

To what specifically would the programme for high-school dropouts be equivalent? I doubt it would be equivalent to one graduating from high school with some CSEC subjects.

We do not have a standard high-school diploma that certifies that one has completed high school at a level of competence that at least basically prepares him for the working world and/or for further schooling or training. Truth be told, there are many people 'graduating' high school who are functionally illiterate.

We, therefore, would have to ensure a standard diploma programme for all high-school graduates that has some meaningful value before we can talk about an equivalency.

I trust, when the minister speaks further on the initiative, sufficient clarity will be provided as to the objective and expected usefulness of such an initiative.

KEVIN K.O. SANGSTER

sangstek@msn.com