The current furore over the dismal results in the CSEC English Language did not happen overnight. Forty-eight years ago, at the graduation of the first batch of Technical High School students of the Dinthill Technical High School, only 38 per cent of students who sat the GCE examination in English language were successful. The then principal, the late CV Philips, lamented the poor performance and reported thus: "English is regarded as a foreign language to most students. It is used by students in the classroom when answering the teachers. However, as soon as they leave the precincts of the classroom, they revert to the old vernacular."
In addressing that deficiency, he launched what was known as a "Better Speaking Campaign". Basically, if a student was caught speaking broken English, a verbatim report of what the student said would be reported at devotion. The student would be mentioned by name, stating place and time of the incident. That proved embarrassing to the offender.
The following year, the pass rate in GCE English language rose to 55 per cent.
The principal was known to be a stickler for the proper use of English. On one occasion, a student and I were in close proximity to an overflowing septic pit. The principal said to the other student, "Son, come and take a quick draft of this obnoxious effluvia." The bewildered student remarked, "Wha yuh seh, Sah?" The principal retorted, "Son, the word is not Sah, it is Sir." The student responded, "I didn't say Sah, Sir. I said Sir, Sah."
Perhaps the adoption of a "Better Speech Campaign" by schools across Jamaica could see an improvement in English language results.
Albert S Walker