Sun | Dec 5, 2021

Some schools more equal than others

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

R. Howard Thompson, Guest Columnist

Last Thursday, I watched one of the better programmes I have seen to date dealing with education, on Impact With Cliff Hughes. The teacher from Immaculate, Ms Castriota, was quite candid, for the most part, in acknowledging that the successful outcomes at the school have been primarily a reflection of the quality of students coming in.

At last, somebody in the press is beginning to realise that the ranking reflects primarily what goes in from GSAT. However, she was being a little less than candid when she declared that there was no screening at Immaculate, as if the system does not do that at grade seven.

The entire traditional high-school system has been built, historically, on a process of screening, going back to the days of entrance examinations that used to be required for entry. These so-called top schools are merely filter plants for children from grade six.

It is a pity that the moderator did not explore further the fact, as she mentioned, that some of the students came from as far away as St Mary and St Thomas. How many students at Immaculate come from across the road at Cassava Piece?

I have known students who achieved in the 80-percentile range who lived in that area and another in Norbrook who could not get into the school and ended up, in one case, at Oberlin, and in the other at Hampton. We believe that we are doing a wonderful job when we take some poor, exceptionally bright child from the inner city below Cross Roads and send them all the way up to Immaculate, even though it means that some equally poor child from across the road is going to be denied access to the school that is the most convenient for her to attend. Yet the moderator complained about people not caring about poor people's children.

Mr Ainsworth Darby still continues to delude himself that his survey tells us something important that we are not aware of. The tragedy is that he succeeds in deluding too many others who then proceed to make wrong-headed choices about their children's education. He talks about giving parents a choice, ignoring the fact that only a small, elite, brilliant minority really get to choose where they go to high school.

Results, no causes

He talks about the poor results at his old school, Calabar, but the numbers really tell us nothing about the cause or how it can be improved. His time would be spent more wisely doing some research at Calabar to find out what makes the difference between success and failure at that school.

The most intelligent contribution to the discussion came from the contributions of the teacher and student from Robert Lightbourne High School, which is ranked at the bottom. The student reminded us all that the outcomes are a result of students, teachers and parents. The new principal of the school has taken the sensible step to try to provide some sort of support for the students, who obviously are not receiving adequate support outside the school gate. This is the sort of intervention that is needed, and it is needed right across the board.

The 60 per cent who are failing at Calabar need the same thing.

R. Howard Thompson is an educator. Email feedback to and