Do not neglect the people’s language, PMThursday, June 09, 2016
In speaking to Parliament on his return from the 7th summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the lawmakers that, "Jamaica will have to take the bold step to make Spanish our second language and making it compulsory in schools." (Jamaica Observer, June 7, 2016). This idea has always being an issue advanced by the tourism sector. Please tread slowly on this issue, prime minister.
Let us have a basic discussion on this issue. One will find that a majority of students in that age group are patois speakers. The primary school is also an important site for research on the language, because most or all of its entrants are patois speakers. English, in the form of Jamaican Standard English, is spoken by a minority in Jamaica. One would think that because patois is the majority language it would be a great concern for the policymakers after Independence. Even after 50 years of Independence we do not have the will to accept ourselves in terms of our language.
Prime Minister, each time this issue of patois in education is raised it is frowned upon. It beats all well-thinking minds that Independence was not accompanied by a new philosophy in general thinking, and particularly in the sphere of formal and informal education.
Let me illustrate this issue of transformative education in post-independent United States, and in our times Singapore. The former embraced a new philosophy, moving from colonial thinking in education to a new philosophy for teaching and learning that embraced a new approach to language, education for citizenship, education for cultural nationalism, and science for national development, among other changes. A new, independent and powerful nation emerged.
The case of Singapore has many lessons for us, especially in its response to the Creole-speaking groups of the city state. The political leadership asserted that English is the language of education and business/international trade. The declaration was made and carried out, without any apology that English must be taught as a second language in order to facilitate education and intellectual development among the Creole-speaking groups. Singapore leads, or is among the leading states in global educational performance, self-sufficiency in food, applied science and technology to industry making it a significant player in global trade.
There is a tradition to reject Jamaican culture and its products. There were rejections of ska, rocksteady and reggae in their early stages of development just because it "came from below". In latter years the acceptance to the modern music form was overwhelming; but in the issue of the Jamaican language there is a case of self-denial.
One of the major problems concerning crime and development is rooted in the failure of the educational system. The central feature of these problems are grounded in the problem language — the teaching of our students under the assumption that they are English speakers. This practice, indeed, is a crime against humanity. English language must be taught as a second language. Let us take care of home before we look abroad.
Louis EA Moyston