Get the education foundation rightThursday, March 25, 2021
President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Jasford Gabriel contributed a column on the status and problems of education mainly at the secondary level in Jamaica. I hope that the country would have read this paper and consider it seriously.
I agree with most of what he said, but discussions could be raised with what he thought about the establishment of the junior secondary schools of years gone by. Since I was around at the time when those schools were being established, I firmly believed then, and still do, that the intention of establishing such schools was good, and many are doing quite well today.
It is not the buildings alone that make a school, though. Where we went wrong was that there has never been enough attention paid to early childhood and primary education. If we don't get this right the top will not be solid — just like a building with a weak foundation.
Therefore, if a child cannot read fluently by age 12 it is unlikely that he will do well at the secondary level. It is well known that the time between birth and five is the period best for children to learn. Activities such as swimming, dancing, gymnastics, and music are best started at that tender age if they are to excel in those areas.
It also disturbs me when I hear that a number of the government schools are being unfairly labelled as “violence producers”. This does not do well for the self-esteem of the majority of other children who attend those schools and, quite likely, reflect this behaviour.
In order to fix the education foundation there are many other related problems that need looking after, most requiring long-term effort. Topping the list is poverty, which has dogged for generations. The results is ill-equipped schools, poor nutrition, poor housing, undiagnosed learning problems, to name a few, and they all remain unresolved.
The best teachers should also be deployed at that basic level to give the right start. Compare this to a flywheel which is slow and difficult to start, but once it gets going it is easier to maintain the momentum.
Much more could be said, but two simple observations can tell a story.
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