Too much focus on 'average' students

Radio station boss says Jamaica’s education system neglecting gifted children

BY TANESHA MUNDLE Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

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GENERAL Manager of FYAH 105 Fm, Ronald Sutherland, is calling for greater focus to be placed on students with superior learning capabilities as many of them are being left behind because of what he said is an education system that caters primarily to the average student.

Sutherland, a former teacher, said it is time Jamaica shifts from its culture of mediocrity and put in place systems to develop and enhance the capabilities of students who are considered "gifted".

"In an average world where I put in [1] and I take out one, I don't make the world advance any further, as I ...take out the same amount [I put in] and it is only the excellent people, the geniuses, they put in 10 and take out one, or 100 and take out 10. That is what advances a society, and it is very important that you have programmes that facilitate the development of excellence," reasoned Sutherland, as he addressed a meeting of the Rotary Club of Kingston East and Port Royal on Monday night at Eden Gardens in St Andrew.

Sutherland said that too much effort is being made to assist students who are weak, while the ones who are excellent are being neglected.

"Every single effort that could be made to support the weakest kids in the schools are made and so we have this thing called a remedial class," he said.

"We tend to focus on the weaker ones, and I don't know of any school that thinks about the gifted and, for the most part, people believe that it is a risk that we can run because since they are bright they will get by anyway; but that is absolutely not true," Sutherland added.

He further argued that not only is the system lacking in terms of making provisions for geniuses, but that the society, on a whole, is very hostile to excellence.

"I have seen kids at schools that I've taught... where the kid is very bright and pretends to be dunce, because they want to fit in," said Sutherland. "The dominant culture is one of mediocrity, and it is worse that these schools have elements of violence in them."

Sutherland said that, contrary to popular belief that students of varying learning abilities should be "mixed together" as the brighter one helps to improve the learning capacity of the weaker ones, he believes excellent students should be separated from the weaker ones and placed in environments where they can be challenged intellectually.

He also stressed the importance of having highly motivated and "bright" teachers working with those students, saying there are too many "average" teachers in the system who are not very motivated and are, therefore, of no benefit to the "bright students".

"One harsh fact is that bright kids and average kids learn differently and the system is organised for average students and our teachers are very average people, very rarely you find a very bright person end up in teaching," Sutherland reasoned.

"There was a time when that used to happen; people sat down and they set out be teachers and selected it as their career, and they do it very well... but over the last 20 to 30 years people tend to fall back to teaching in the same way they fall back to being a police," he added, noting that parents also have a responsibility to get their children assessed to determine at what level they are performing.




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