Swal­low­ing hard lessons

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Jae­vion Nel­son is a hu­man rights, eco­nomic and so­cial jus­tice ad­vo­cate. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and jae­vion@gmail.com or tweet @jae­vionn. Jae­vion Nel­son

THERE IS a na­tional cri­sis in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that has been star­ing at us for many years that does not seem to bother us or catal­yse a sense of ur­gency and ac­tion. So many of our chil­dren can’t be dunce and good for noth­ing. There is ob­vi­ously a prob­lem with the sys­tem and our lead­ers fail to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for it.

Ear­lier this week, the Min­istry of Labour and So­cial Se­cu­rity an­nounced that only 8,703 of the 34,885 stu­dents who com­pleted fifth form in 2017 ob­tained qual­i­fi­ca­tion – five sub­jects in­clud­ing maths and English – to ma­tric­u­late to a higher level of ed­u­ca­tion.

This should get ever yone’s at­ten­tion. Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans should be con­cerned and ought to use their of­fices to de­mand that we do some­thing about this. There ought to be ro­bust dis­cus­sion in Par­lia­ment and a spe­cial House com­mit­tee to come up with rad­i­cal changes that will undo this in­jus­tice to our chil­dren.

It is un­fair that tax­pay­ers work so hard to finance an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that only ben­e­fits a hand­ful of stu­dents – 8,703 of 34,885 stu­dents.

Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers cer­tainly aren’t ig­no­rant of the prob­lems. They are acutely aware if they pay at­ten­tion in Par­lia­ment, watch, lis­ten and/or read news, and if they talk with their con­stituents. Our lead­ers con­tinue to drag their feet with ed­u­ca­tional re­form and are too com­fort­able with the cos­metic changes that are be­ing im­ple­mented, which in re­al­ity will not re­sult in much change.


What will it take for them to re­spond? A riot? How on earth can they all be so unbothered? Why aren’t they protest­ing about this cri­sis? Why aren’t peo­ple walk­ing out of Par­lia­ment, stalling dis­cus­sions, or threat­en­ing to cease co­op­er­a­tion as a re­sult of the state of af­fairs in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem?

I know when­ever this topic comes up, we has­ten to make men­tion of par­ents and shift the blame to them. We have to re­think this no­tion of parental in­volve­ment in a child’ s ed­u­ca­tion. I agree that they have a role to play but the role of the ed­u­ca­tor can’t be out­sourced to the par­ent and the role of the par­ent can’t be out­sourced to the ed­u­ca­tor.

We have to de­ter­mine what ex­actly is the role we want par­ents to play. We have to be mind­ful of the sit­u­a­tion fac­ing many fam­i­lies and how dif­fi­cult it is for some par­ents to be in­volved in a child’s ed­u­ca­tion to the ex­tent we think they should. Im­por­tantly, if the school is ill equipped, syl­labus isn’t be­ing com­pleted in class time, fre­quent in­ter­rup­tions be­cause of vi­o­lence, teacher lacks ca­pac­ity, par­ents can’t rem­edy that. Can they?

How can we grow and de­velop if the vast ma­jor­ity of stu­dents con­tinue to leave school un­qual­i­fied? If we have to spend so much on sec­ond­chance school each year? If only 54 per cent of stu­dents who sit the sciences can pass them?

What does this mean for the fu­ture of our coun­try if 25 per cent of stu­dents can pass the re­quired sub­jects? With the state of af­fairs, we will al­ways have a mar­ket for low-pay­ing jobs in ho­tels and BPOs to boast about FDI.

As Imani Dun­can-Price said, “It’s about time we wake up and re­ally change the sys­tem. It not only lim­its the pos­si­bil­i­ties for the in­di­vid­ual chil­dren, but it also lim­its the coun­try’s growth, so we stay poor and have an in­ef­fec­tive sys­tem ... . Bold change needed.”

Let’s de­mand ac­tion from our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. Let’s turn this ridicu­lously un­just ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem on its head, so that all our chil­dren can ben­e­fit equally and be em­pow­ered to their fullest po­ten­tial and re­alise their dreams.

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