School can pick up the slack

Thursday, January 16, 2014    

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Dear Editor,

The comments made by Right Reverend Dr Howard Gregory, Anglican bishop of Jamaica, underlining the need for better parenting to improve educational outcomes, as well as those made by Member of Parliament Damion Crawford, are certainly welcome.

There seems to be a growing awareness that the businesss of educating students goes well beyond the classroom. This is a healthy sign. Much of what is mistakenly referred to as the transformation process seems to be based on the assumption that the answer lies in getting teachers to work harder or smarter. But while this is always desirable, it is doubtful that this will improve outcomes significantly for those who do

not have support systems beyond the classroom.

It is impossible for teachers to teach concepts and then supervise the reinforcement of these concepts in the contact time they have. Students need to spend more time in an organised environment to have the concepts they learn reinforced doing worksheets and other written and oral exercises.

However, what needs to be accepted now is that we cannot depend on parents to do the additional supervision and nurturing that is required to improve educational outcomes. The truth is that the nuclear family, in which a home has mother and father providing an organised environment, is no longer the norm. More and more, young people are being left on their own to manage their own time and space.

One of the anomalies of our plans in education is that it has been based on the realities of an era when the nuclear family was the norm. But we are no longer in the 1950s when it was normal to have a mother as homemaker who could supervise children. Even First-World countries are beginning to realise this. This means that, whether we like it or not, our schools will have to do more of the nurturing and reinforcement required for success. And, as I have pointed out before, the children who have support systems in place are doing well, wherever they attend school. We need to restructure the system so that school days are extended for students in such a manner that they remain in some sort of learning environment between eight in the morning and six in the evening. Activities would range from academic preparation to extra-curricular activities and sports.

R Howard Thompson







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