Education to create a just society

Education to create a just society

Monday, April 22, 2019

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Dear Editor,

During the early nineteenth century the endowment from the Mico Trust — originally established in 1670 to redeem Christian slaves in the Barbary States of North Africa — opened a series of schools for blacks and free non-white pupils throughout the Caribbean, and three teacher training colleges: Mico in Antigua and Jamaica and Codrington in Barbados.

After 1870 there was change in public education throughout the Caribbean. This coincided with the establishment of free, compulsory public elementary education in Britain and in individual states of the United States. A system of free public primary education and limited secondary education became generally available in every territory, and an organised system of teacher training and examinations was established.

The main thrust of public education in the nineteenth and early twentieth century came from the religious community. Competing Protestant denominations — the Church of England, the Baptists, the Moravians, the Wesleyans, and the Presbyterians — and the Roman Catholic Jesuits operated a vast system of elementary and secondary schools. At the end of the nineteenth century the churches monopolised elementary education in Jamaica, Belize and Barbados, and ran a majority of the primary schools in Trinidad, Grenada, and Antigua.

In the 1900s secondary education was for white, almost white or for those who could afford it. By the 1960s it was considered a right. By the 1970s government took control of the education system and its purpose was for national development, not just individual advancenent.

The most outstanding secondary schools have religious management. It is not that religious denominations manage schools better than governments, as most would assert. It is that they take in students with better academic backgrounds. If they took in students with poor academic backgrounds and made them the best, then that would support that they can manage schools better than governments.

The real changes need to occur at the primary level. Money must be spent so that no child leaves primary school without gaining the required skills. The blame game is counterproductive. Remedial programmes need to be put in place from at least grade three (standard one) up to grade six. Massive investment in technology such as teaching aids must be implemented. The Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examinations need to be for diagnostic purposes rather than for placement.

The entire history of education in the Caribbean and Jamaica is that education is a tool of social stratification rather than for developing all the citizen's potential. Jamaica has not learnt from history. If you don't develop the people at the bottom of the social hierarchy they will become thorns in your side, hence the crime problem. All the zones of special operations won't change that reality.

Brian Ellis Plummer

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