Columns

An educated path to crime

Jason
McKay

Sunday, October 06, 2019

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As Jamaicans, we take pride in our high schools. We believe that our high schools are at a higher academic level than those of the United States and England. By asserting this, are we saying that all our high schools are equal, or are we saying that even our worst is better than their best?

Well, let me put that belief to rest. Our high schools are far from being all equal, and our worst are as bad as their worst. Our best is certainly better than their average ones, but that story runs a bit thin when we are looking at their best.

You see, education in Jamaica is the first seed of deception planted in our people's minds. We are led to believe that the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), now Primary Exit Profile (PEP), eliminates corruption and class advantage and creates a level playing field for all. This is the beginning of the farce. Our system in its practical application is set on a straight run to poverty and crime for the majority of kids who sit these exams.

Let us consider some things. All types of people reproduce: lawyers, doctors, teachers, unemployed idlers, criminals, and all and any form of indisciplined hooligans.

So, a child is born.

Those without means but with common sense, ambition and knowledge rush to registration at the few great primary schools in the island. But what of the person who is not as concerned, informed, or connected? His child ends up at a school in his community, many times a slum.

The school, quite frankly, may hardly ever get a pass to a traditional high school. So, the child of the uninformed and unconnected ends up at a former secondary school that has just been hijacked by 140 kids who can barely read.

Now, this is where it gets ridiculous. The school in question is expected to follow the same generic curriculum as the traditional one that just got 140 kids who have been properly educated. The result is that the child in the former secondary school will go from form to form without any significant improvement and will leave school with no option to go to college, no specialised skill and, in some cases, without having learned to read well. So, he likely has no job prospects.

In our overcrowded ghettos he is ripe fruit to become a criminal, and ultimately a gang member. So who is to blame? It is not his fault he did not pick his primary school, or his mother or father.

However, the decision made for him has doomed him from age three. Unless he is talented, he will go from a bad primary school with an illogically prepared high school programme to being qualified to hawk and peddle, or load a taxi or bus, or 'buss' a gun.

My problem is not the bad primary school. My problem is that this cannot be a plan made by logical men or women. Everyone knows that all primary schools are not producing kids qualified to attend our best high schools. And if they were, we would not have enough spaces. So, if we cannot fix the primary schools, then we know we are sending kids to high schools where they cannot manage the curriculum.

If we were sending kids with 'on par' and reasonable literary skills, then the non-traditional schools would be able to pull them through the generic curriculum. But, they are not. So what really is the plan?

Well, we need to have a curriculum that is not only designed to prepare kids to advance, but that also accounts for the level they are at. Maybe it is too late for an academic programme to be the primary endgame for these schools. Maybe their programme should be designed to certify drivers or heavy-duty equipment operators, electricians, or hairdressers.

I really don't know for sure, but I know that leaving school qualified to do nothing and unable to further your education because you sat City and Guilds, which no college accepts, makes no sense.

So, let us say you do not think this is your problem. After all, they are not your kids. Well, if you are thinking that way, start to imagine one of them fully grown with a gun in his hand, pointing at you. Because, trust me, the gunmen all walk this path. Lousy parents, lousy primary school, ill-prepared high school, no skill, no job, no future, a gang, a gun, bloodshed.

This is not a revelation. Read the study on the non-traditional schools' representation in our prison population. Or, consider this fact; during a 10-year period of placing men into custody as a police officer, I placed handcuffs on only four men who attended traditional high schools. On the counter, I would have observed or placed into custody myself over a thousand in total.

I am not blaming the non-traditional high schools they lost this game long before the kick off. If you sent those same 140 kids who can barely read to Campion College and forced them to follow the same generic curriculum, without years of incremental basic training to become functionally literate, you would get the same kids going to the same gangs with the same guns.

The former deputy prime minister of Singapore Goh KengSwee ordered the phasing out of pig farming in his country right about the time he was incarcerating the Opposition. He put it to them simply. “You're wasting your time and our land” a direct, pragmatic statement from a man who spoke what he saw, but with really bad political practices. Someone needs to say in as frank a manner that our education system is not wasting land, but wasting lives.

Feedback: jasonamckay@gmail.com


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