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EDITORIAL - Dr Nicely off the mark

Published:Monday | June 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Mark Nicely, it is now clear, is infected by the virus that attacks anyone who, in recent years, has led the teachers' union, the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA).

Its main symptoms are crooked thinking, unreasonableness and a consistent effort at weaseling out of accountability. All three are apparent in Dr Nicely's advice to teachers on how to respond to the education ministry's list of texts from which high-school teachers should draw to supplement the books that specifically support the secondary-education curriculum.

The ministry's action was in response to complaints by parents about the large number of books they are often required to expensively buy for their children, only to find that many are never used - a financially painful prospect in these hard economic times. But not so, it seems, to Dr Nicely.

He said: "... You are to proceed until you are apprehended, and when you are apprehended, the Jamaica Teachers' Association will be there to treat with the matter."

In other words, teachers are to disregard the directive of the ministry, for they are the experts in the field, upon whose "professional integrity, judgement and autonomy" policymakers and parents ought to rely.

This newspaper accepts that far too many parents have, for too long, abrogated their responsibility to ensure that their children receive the best education, which includes interacting with teachers and involvement in parent-teacher sessions. If more parents were so involved, this crisis over the excessive number of textbooks demanded by some schools at burdensome costs might not have arisen. Parents would have a better awareness of the school and would be in a position, as a unit, to apply the brakes to overreaching teachers.

Grounded in success

At the same time, urging a disregard to policy, as has been done by Dr Nicely, is untenable. It might not have been so bad if the insistence on this mountain of books was grounded in success.

But for all the books they load students with, fewer than 20 per cent of Jamaican students pass five subjects at a single sitting at the CXC's secondary-school exams; more than 30 per cent fail at English and near 70 per cent at math. Clearly, education outcomes are measured by the weight of students' satchels.

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