*This post has started & stopped many times, and is now being published as a smoosh of thoughts*
One night, one of the most popular shows on Jamaican television, Your Issues Live!, touched on an important topic: Tertiary Education. This is not a topic of low interest in this country, just as it is in any other country with tertiary education available within its borders. It is one that ignites passion on all ends of every version of debate on it, with only one point of common ground: Education is important.
It is my opinion that the standard of education in Jamaica has deteriorated. It has done so in a systematic way and has unfortunately become the undermining factor of the attempts at development and growth of this nation. This has been largely ignored as the statistics measuring education progress show more passes. Regardless, I stand by my opinion with the view that an A in an easier exam does not make you more capable than the person who got a C in a more difficult one.
My primary education took place between 1980 & 1990 (nursery to grade 6) and secondary 1990 & 1996 (graduated 1994). Unlike many persons, I took a looong time to get back into the system, I started University in Jamaica in 2006. So yes, there is a defined and measurable difference in the time between which I garnered my education and that of a majority of my classmates.
There is something undeniably wrong when students in university are unable to express themselves in the official language of their nation. When they are unable to construct a simple sentence correctly, there is a problem. When their ability to think for themselves is so limited that they cannot answer a question within the topic they are presenting on because it’s not written down for them – that is the sound of the alarm my friends. That alarm is loud and clear with its intentions – it is screaming “WAKE UP! WE ARE IN TROUBLE!”
I recall expressing this to someone in government (who shall remain unnamed) and their comeback was that we are clearly doing better, we are getting more 1’s now than before, students are sitting more subjects than before. I even argued that there is a distinct difference in the analytical skills of my classmates that did Common Entrance and those that did GSAT. He argued that Common Entrance was creating inequality in access to High School and GSAT was leveling the playing field. I wondered if he thought I was an idiot because I didn’t go to the prestigious UWI that he did.
I think it was at that point I knew that it had to have been purposely and systematically done. I worked out that logically, if you could dumb down the nation, make them unskilled adults then it would be easier to buy their votes. A hungry man will do most anything for food. If the reports of Chicken, Cash and Goat are even remotely true, then yes, it does seem a logical way to be elected or re-elected. This is not even my concern anymore…
When I read that the Minister of Education believes that only 16% of math teachers are competent in the subject area, and the response from the JTA is “prove it”. I honestly worry. Why? Well, let’s begin with the fact that we have quite consistently remained on the lowest ends of the standardised testing we subscribe to. This is only cemented by the low pass rates of basic numeracy and communications courses at the University level. It may just well be perception, but my school mates were convinced that Pre-Calculus, Calculus, Intro to Communications and Advanced Communications were the most failed courses in the university. As far as they were concerned, perception IS reality.
If one wants to do better, as our various governments have claimed, you cannot simply change a test the people are failing. You must examine the reasons for the failure and make efforts to make the methodology of education delivery better. Push for smaller class sizes, especially at the primary level; push for tactile learning for all children under 8; push for a varied curriculum that includes a second language at the primary level; insist that those educating our future are high achievers and psychologically stable; ensure schools have the tools needed; stop teaching children how to pass a test; EDUCATE OUR FUTURE.
No, it is not enough that we only speak about education when fees need to be paid, the national budget is read or examination results are released. It is important that education is on our agendas at all times. It is important that our teachers are delivering at a standard that is not just sufficient but excellent. We must concern ourselves as a nation with education. We must keep it upfront, we must fight and demand better for ourselves as students; our children as parents; and truthfully, our money as citizens.
I am proud of the education I received as a citizen of Jamaica. I am however worried as I see a majority of us no longer being afforded the quality of education I was able to take for granted.
*This post has been in the process since December 2010. Published at last! – It might be a little piece-y, forgive me.