It is often said that school prepares students for life, but many would argue that the curriculum at schools across Jamaica doesn’t cover everything that is needed for the ‘real world’.
The impending start of the 2022/23 academic year has us thinking what would’ve been helpful to learn as a child. Against this background, OBSERVER ONLINE has compiled a list of subjects we would like to see taught in local schools to better prepare the next generation.
1 Personal Finance – Leaving school and suddenly being in charge of bills and your own money is stressful, but thousands of Jamaican youths emerge into adulthood without being taught how to be self-sufficient in money management matters: how to secure mortgages, write proposals, invest and how to manage credit cards. These are essential skills that can affect a child’s future finances, self-esteem, relationships, and overall enjoyment of life when he or she matures into adulthood.
2. Marcus Garvey – How many Jamaicans know Marcus Garvey's most famous quote? “If you haven't confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life." Garvey's aphorisms and quotes are relevant more today than they were a half century ago. There should be a mandatory course in high schools on the life and philosophies of our first national hero, Marcus Garvey. More than ever, the island needs his brand of black nationalism: unity, pride in the African cultural heritage, and complete autonomy.
3. African History – The average Jamaican knows more about Napoleon, King Henry and other European leaders than the likes of Shaka Zulu and other African kings and queens. There should be a course that combines the themes of race, culture and identity so that Jamaicans can properly comprehend the dialogue between the past and the present. European history is the one dominant culture's justification of its actions, the subjugation and mass genocide of other cultures alient to its own. An African Studies course would offer a greater opportunity to expand knowledge of Africa, but should not consist simply of a glorification of the African past, but a sober understanding of its realities and complexities.
4. Conflict Resolution, Values and Civics – Some schools of thought believe that the bonds of slavery have left with us the inability to communicate effectively. One just has to glance at the headlines in the newspaper to realise that the first thing we do when we have a disagreement is reach for guns and we start yelling at each other. A constant erosion of values caused by social media, skin-bleaching, the joys of the 'choppa lifestyle', parental neglect, and poverty should be buttressed by a reprogramming of the island's youth.
Civics was previously taught from grades seven to nine in all-age schools and at first form in high school. The subject, which educates students about their rights, duties, and responsibilities as citizens, the structure and functions of government, and the significance of national symbols and emblems. In 2012, the government attempted to re-introduce the subject, and the current administration has announced similar plans.
5. Essential Life Skills - A course that combines simple mechanics skills, first aid, how to make a splint for a broken bone and survival skills. Teaching teens to be proactive and take control of their ability to handle a dangerous situation can be a brilliant confidence builder. By providing youth with effective social skills and self-management skills such as communication and anxiety management can decrease the motivation to use drugs and the vulnerability to social influences that support drug use.
6. Mental Health - A mental health course is a necessary tool in today's society in helping teens to cope with the stresses of life. Teach male and female teens how to spot manipulative and abusive behaviour, the importance of sexual consent and understanding sexuality in general would really help people improve their relationships for life. The high level of domestic violence in Jamaica shows that there is a need to identify, diagnose, and assist those people with mental health problems. Jamaica is full of the walking wounded: potential suicides, self-harmers and those traumatised by physical and emotional abuse. Help them.
7. Swimming – The spate of drownings during the summer holidays should spur people into action: two girls who were swept away while at a river in Jobs Hill, St Mary, the two Jamaican brothers drowned tragically in Massachusetts, and one male teenager drowned in Caymanas Bay. Given the obvious need for swimming courses, corporate bodies could come together and sponsor classes at the local YMCAs so that most Jamaican high school students have to get in 10 credit hours of swimming before they graduate. The mere fact that the country is a tropical island completely surrounded by the beautiful Caribbean Sea yet many Jamaicans cannot swim should be motivation enough.