PM STEM schools model further institutionalises 'apartheid'

PM STEM schools model further institutionalises 'apartheid'

Friday, December 13, 2019

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Dear Editor,

With regards to the prime minister's STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) schools proposal, someone is leading him astray on this one.

He posits that our current system is “autocratic” and unfriendly to “exploratory learning”. He then acknowledges that “some traditional secondary, and a handful of the new secondary schools which were converted to high schools have managed to excel in STEM-based subjects”. At a minimum, these two observations by the prime minster are diametrically opposed to each other and beg clarification.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness's proposal, in its current form, will further institutionalise the 'apartheid' configuration of our school system by establishing a parallel legal framework within which STEM schools will operate, whilst leaving the 'other' schools behind to muddle through under the 'rejected' 1980 Education Act.

Holness further posits that placement at these STEM schools will be on a competitive basis, but a competitive placement model of the Ministry of Education already places Primary Exit Profile (PEP) students. The higher-achieving students are placed at Immaculate, Wolmer's, Campion, Hampton high schools et al, whilst the 'other' students are placed in schools which perennially underachieve. Moving students from high-output schools to these STEM schools will be nothing short of musical chairs.

Our Government has the responsibility to employ reimagined approaches to learning for all students, not just high achievers in STEM schools. I would hope that our schools of teacher education and the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) will reject the prime minister's assertion that teachers are still using outdated methodologies. Strengthen our schools through equipping them with the cutting-edge resources necessary to facilitate “exploratory learning” across the curriculum, not just STEM. Implement a robust online in-service teacher-education platform to bring teachers closer to pedagogies linked to exploratory learning and differentiated instruction.

Once again, a proposal is being heralded without broad-based stakeholder consultation and collaboration. Let's take a step back and come again, but this time with a plan that has hope for all learners and disciplines.

Dr Richard Kitson-Walters

Sandy Bay, Clarendon

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