Letter of the day | Recalibrate the education system | Letters


Every year, Jamaican students, especially those at the elementary level, experience stress and sometimes trauma when PEP results are released. The pressure point during the school year is very high, as they are expected to be super performers. Most parents want their child to go to certain Ivy League schools across the country, but alas, the choices are few. When not selected, these students tend to become demotivated and demoralized.

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

Jamaica in this post-COVID era should start looking at how and where children are placed for schooling. Every school should have the opportunity to excel as a regional school. When we take all the brilliant kids and send them to a particular school and lump all the others who are second, third or fourth class into other inferior schools, we are sending the wrong message. We play with our children’s psyches, and even allow some to be paralyzed by self-esteem issues. In my opinion, there should be equity in the education system. All schools should receive the same grant amount per child, so that staff can have resources for school delivery.

What successive governments have done is have name changes, but no substantive changes. I went through what was called the scholarship exam, then there was the common entrance, then the ninth grade pass test, the sixth grade pass test, and now we have the profile primary output (PEP). It seems to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The baffling question is, what is the difference with each? The Department of Education appears to be applying band-aids to a system that needs radical surgery. Our adaptation of a colonial and British approach to education hampers growth and evolution. Students should travel to schools in their designated geographic areas. No student should travel miles through parishes to get to a school because they did not achieve a specified maximum score. Some students have to pay high fares to go to low-rated schools because the students there are marginalized and stigmatized. Even teachers feel frustrated and perform poorly.

The mishmash of the functioning of the Jamaican education system has an economic and sociological cost. We need a system where students have equal opportunity, the same quality of educational exposure, regardless of their geographic region and socio-economic background. This could be a great 60th independence gift to the Jamaican people.


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