What is it about a kid without a sparkle in his/her eyes that grabs your heart and pulls at it it so strongly? What is it about children who’ve lost their laughs that makes us so incredibly sad? Do cynical, depressed, distressed and discouraged young people disturb you?
you look back on your own childhood and school experience, do you ever
get the feeling that even though it was not excessively negative or
traumatic, it still could have been much better?
don’t you think we owe it to the next generation to ensure that every
minute spent in the classroom yields far greater results than passes in a
few compulsory subjects? Don’t you think we ought to use the classroom
to create a safe place for self-discovery and learning, coupled with
enthusiasm and fun?
I believe that
if our schools continue to educate our children along the lines that
we’ve been for the last century, we will end up with a society of mostly
uninnovative, monotonous conformists. I fear that we will end up with
young ‘dicta-regurgitating ibots’ who resent the education process, and
completely miss the value of the time they spend in the classroom.
Statistical Institute of Jamaica reports that there are 769,239
children and youth between the ages of five to 19 in Jamaica. These are
the ages between which most children start primary school and leave high
school. Now if the average Jamaican child spends roughly seven hours
per weekday for about 180 days each year in the classroom, that means
that each child spends a total of 1,260 hours per year in the classroom.
That’s a very long time – too long for us to take any chances, or get
the education of the next generation wrong.
child brings a unique gift into the world, and the education system
ought to be the place where that gift is found, exposed, developed and
maximised. Instead, what we often see happening is an emphasis on
memorising and regurgitating facts and figures, to the exclusion or
marginalisation of other key elements of the learning process. There is
also a heavy focus on academics, which often does not include theatre
arts or other less conventional areas of study.
month, for example, two of Jamaica’s most popular primary-school
examinations became the subject of national debates. The Grade Four
Literacy Test (GFLT) and the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) are two
exams used to assess the literacy skills of our primary-school students,
and their readiness to move on to secondary education.
year, as preparation for these exams takes place, many students find
themselves pressured, burdened and agitated. Their only goal at those
stages is to pass the exam; make their teachers, parents or guardians
proud; and avert the shame and stigma that comes with failure, or even
with near-but-not-total success.
have seen so many young eyes filled with tears, heard shrieks of fear
and disappointment and seen children literally fret themselves into
sickness because they did not perform as well as they had hoped on one
of these exams.
The same thing applies
for the CXC Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exam in high
schools. At this stage, the exam candidates may be older and more
contained in their emotions and reactions, but there is similar
trepidation and disappointment when things don’t turn out the way they
had planned, or hoped.
the results we obtain annually in these exams paint a dismal picture of
the effectiveness of our teaching system. Statistics from the National
Progress Report on Jamaica’s Social Policy Goals (Jamaica Social Policy
Evaluation, 2008) reveal that at the primary level over the 2006-2007
period, only 65 per cent of students who sat the Grade Four Literacy
Test were successful in accomplishing full mastery of all the measures
used to assess functional literacy. Fourteen per cent failed to master
these areas at all.
the secondary level in the same period, only 56 per cent of students
allowed to sit the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) Caribbean
Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) English language exam passed. An
even more dismal 36 per cent of those entered to sit mathematics
What these results
tell me is that something is wrong with what takes place annually in the
classroom - obviously, something needs fixing. Why are our children
taken through this rigorous and stressful cycle annually, only to yield
less-than-satisfactory results? We’ve already tried changing the exam.
It did not work. It is time to change the ENTIRE system. An education
overhaul is long overdue in Jamaica!
at today’s schools. Think of today’s children. Do you think any of them
deserves to have their hopes and dreams squelched by a system that does
not recognise or embrace their unique artistic gifts or talents – a
system that many argue literally sets them up for failure? Why do we
keep sending our children through an obviously botched system,
especially when there are ways in which the education experience can be
made to be much more meaningful and fulfilling for them?
is in the classroom, I believe, that our teachers get the opportunity
every day to impart a legacy far greater than knowledge to the next
generation. And it hurts me to see that opportunity squandered every
We don't need another
barely literate and depressed generation. We need an education
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices
of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new
media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders.
World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most
unheard regions of the world.