Recalibrating the education system – Jamaica Observer

Department of Education Headquarters in Kingston

AnnuallyJamaican students, especially those at the elementary level, experience stress, tension and sometimes trauma when Primary Exit Profile (PEP) results are released.

There are even reports of students who have had suicidal thoughts or killed themselves when they find they have not lived up to their parents’ or teachers’ expectations. The pressure point during the school year is very high as they are expected to be super performers as most parents want their child to go to a traditional high school but alas the pickings are few . When not selected, these students tend to become demotivated and demoralized

Some schools receive extraordinary credits for maintaining their status quo while others are stigmatized due to their location and per capita income.

I have to say Jamaica in this post COVID-19 era should start looking at how and where children are placed for schooling. Every school should have the opportunity to excel. When we take all the bright kids and send them to particular schools and lump all the others who are in second, third or fourth grade into other subpar schools, we are sending the wrong message. We play with our children’s psyches and even allow some to be crippled by self-esteem issues.

There should be equity in the education system. All schools should receive the same grant amount per child so that staff can have adequate resources for school delivery.

I went through what was called the Fellowship Exam, then there was the Common Entrance, then there was the Grade Nine Achievement Test (GNAT), followed by the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) , and now we have the Primary Output Profile (PEP). It seems to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The question that baffles all right-thinking people is: what’s the difference? The Department of Education just seems to be band-aiding a system that needs radical surgery. The tumor needs excision and not a placebo for its treatment.

Our adaptation of a British colonial approach to education hinders growth and evolution because this system was designed to impose a class structure – those with economic power were treated differently from those who were economically disadvantaged, even when there was evidence that students who were not at the top rung of society, in some cases, as well or better than those at the top of the socio-economic ladder.

I believe that students should attend schools close to home. No student should travel miles through parishes to go to a school because he has not obtained a certain maximum. Some students have to pay high fares to go to poorly rated schools because students who are usually placed there are marginalized and stigmatized. Even teachers feel frustrated, and it shows in their performance.

The mishmash of the functioning of the Jamaican education system has an economic and sociological cost. In the days of Edwin Allen, we had a new deal in education. These days, however, we seem to be getting a raw deal.

Teenage pregnancy, crime, and school absenteeism could be greatly reduced if students attended schools in their communities instead of traveling in and out of their parishes to receive an education. In American society, this is the model practiced, students must go to schools in their ZIP codes and school districts. Those who attempt to escape, when caught, face severe penalties.

I think what we need in Jamaica right now is a system where students have equal opportunities regardless of address and socio-economic background. This could be a great 60th Independence gift to the people of Jamaica, a land we love.

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Sixth grade students during a session of the Primary Exit Profile Examination