Archive | August, 2013

“PRACTICAL EDUCATION”: POSSIBLE PRESCRIPTION

27 Aug

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The recently concluded IAAF World Championship has once again created a wave of euphoria for Jamaicans yaad (yard) and abroad…and ‘our’ fans across the globe.

Jamaica entered the championships with a cloud over its head. The industry was rocked with the news that several of its athletes (platinum athletes) tested positive for banned substances. This news placed our little nation under the microscope and was viewed by several pairs of eyes with varied expressions- shocked, sympathy, sadness, happiness, unkindness, you name it. The nation was subjected to much insult and scorn, BUT….Jamaicans are resilient.

Our athletes went out and represented.  They answered the insults on that track. The black, green and gold flooded and permeated the stadium in Moscow. Even in events where medals were not won, the athletes left an impression. In short, Jamaica dominated the championships.  The team that went in with a cloud, exited with glow that oozed the type of radiance unique to Jamaicans.  What more could we ask for?As we celebrated and bask in the glory that once again showed us off to the world, I couldn’t help but reiterate the call for a reformation in our education system…a reformation that facilitates holistic development of the child….a reformation where our children can discover, own and develop their talents

 

Two of the areas that bring us great fame, recognition and continue improve brand Jamaica are sports and entertainment, NOT mathematics nor English, history, business, etc…  Mind you, I am not saying having mastery of these subject areas is unimportant, because we want our children to be literate and have the competence to manage their careers; I am saying that they are not the end all.  We have cultivated an unhealthy culture and brain wash our children into thinking that education and success is about passing math and English. Too often we have allowed our youths to feel belittled and a lack of self-worth because they did not score the grade one, two or three on the math and English examination. We must realize that some of us were not meant to excel in the traditional academics but that does not make us less brilliant than those who do.  We need to start focusing on what I call “Practical Education”.   I call it practical because it is about doing and is much more applicable to life after high school especially for those students who are blessed with the aptitude for this.

The unforgettable golden silver finish….

 

The anchor leg of the 4x400m relay ran by seventeen year old Javon Francis continue to be the talk of the country and the highlight of the championship. This young man has challenges with the traditional academics, BUT, look at the stalwart performance he gave on that track.  This BOY CHILD solely and fearlessly took on a field of MEN-his seniors- and took Jamaica from fifth position to a silver medal position.  Isn’t this success?  What, did he count the number of strides the other men were taking and tried to decide how many he needed to take pass them?  Was there math or English at play here? No. there was focus; guts; passion; discipline; competitive spirit; drive; you name it.  Nothing of the academics Yet, this is a major achievement.

 

 

 

Recently, I heard an advertisement where a training institution was offering training in specific skills and their requirement was for individuals to have passed math and English? Does this mean because I did not pass these subjects I will not be able to learn the skill?   How about offering the training without marrying it to these subjects? If the skill area is directly linked to the subject areas then I can understand.  This goes to show the extent to which we have tied the success and achievement of individuals to traditional academics.

Some students are often labelled dunce, disruptive, rude among other things. The reality is, sometimes these students feel ignored.  We fail to tap into their strengths because we cannot recognize them. We cannot recognize them because they do not always fit into the schema that society has created.   When students are allowed to participate in the things they love and are good at, it is amazing to see the excellent work they produce. We need to help them own these skills and talents.

 

All education stakeholders need to start implementing programmes that caters to the development of skills.  The curriculum within each institution must be designed to identify, harness and develop talents. People do not earn from academics only but from skills. Several of our high schools lack a skill base area.  All arts, vocation, sporting and any other skill based programmes in school should be heavily invested in. If we are preparing students to be global citizens, we have to reorient our thinking.

 

It is important to note that the students who participate in these activities do not only develop or own their skills and talents but they life skills that are imperative to attain success when they get into the wider society.  Here are a few:

 

 

  1. Team work.  When an athlete runs a 100m it is done individually but he also runs as a part of a larger group. There is the relay, this is done as a team; when you play football, basketball, volleyball, it is all about a team. Not a one man glory.   Each person on that team must play their part to be successful.   Have you ever watched a game of football and see the pain the players feel when one of their fellow team-mate is down on the ground with an injury? Do you notice what happens when an altercation happens?  No man stands aside and look; they all become involved, protecting each other, guiding each other.   Our memories can recall when Usain Bolt false started at the world championships in Daegu how it affected the fellow Jamaicans in the race.   YET, Yohan Blake came from behind to win the 100m.  Why, Bolt was out and as a member of the team, he had to take up the challenge.

 

  1. Discipline.  To do well as an athlete or an artiste, it requires lots of work.  Long hours of training and rehearsal.  Most track clubs, football clubs have a training programme and athletes are expected to follow this.  If we allow our children to engage in these activities from early, they are bound to develop a commitment, dedication and discipline that WILL later manifests itself in other aspects of their lives.

 

  1. Leadership qualities.  All teams have a captain. If you are a musical band there is a band leader. It you are a performing arts group, there is a leader.  Students learn to own these leadership skills and from early identify their strengths and weakness as a leader. They also learn to take directives and respect positions of authority regardless of age or gender.

 

  1. Time management.   As a student, there are so many things to do at school and several deadlines to meet.  Assignments must be completed and handed in on time.  Most teachers will not accept the excuse that the child had to train or rehearse.  Most coaches and advisers do not tolerate delinquency in their students.  Therefore, youngsters do not have a choice but to ensure they manage their time properly to ensure that they meet all deadlines without short changing themselves.

 

  1. Inter-personal skills.   Students who engage in these activities, tend to be popular.  Popular in this case means well known. This because there is no age limit on talent or the development of them. Therefore all these students will interact with students across all grades as well as most staff members.  Even the shyest student, upon becoming involved in these activities, will eventually come out of their ‘shell’.

 

 

I could discuss Self- confidence, self-worth and many others.   You get the gist so I will not list anymore.  The bottom line is, if Jamaica is going to create a first class education system, we have to move from our antiquated way of thinking and embrace the reality that is staring us in the face.  Let us stop living our dreams through our children; let us stop thrusting traditional academics down their throats even when we realize they are not excelling at them despite their best efforts.

 

Let us not wait. The future of Jamaica is ripe with possibilities. The door is ajar so we do not have to pry it open.   Let us enter the space of Practical Education.

What are some areas you believe would make up this “Practical Education” curriculum? Please share with.

 

BACK TO SCHOOL IS BITTER SWEET

16 Aug

For me, it is still summer time… 

The day was beautiful.  As I walked the streets, I was caught in a sea of people that prevented my feet from deliberately being placed one before the other. Instead I was being carried by the wave like motion of the sea of people. I clutched my bag tightly in my arms as my slender frame was pinned helplessly against the broad shoulders of a woman as she noisily screamed at the pedestrians in her path to hurriedly make way for her.  I gasped for air as the pungent odour of combine body scents infiltrated my nostrils.  I wanted to sneeze but couldn’t.  All around horns honked loudly; desperate vendors begged to be patronized; loud music deafened the ear; loud chatter and laughter escaped the lips of people going about their businesses.  As the large woman who preceded me made her escape from the sea of people, so did I.  I looked up and inhale deeply. Fresh air never tasted so good.

The sun was HOT! I slipped into a store.  It was full. Shocked, annoyed and then an expression of realization swept across my face as it dawned on me. 

For me it was still summer…for others, it was back to school time.

hmmm..Is this a familiar scene?

Myriad of emotions can be associated this time of the year. (Excitement, anxiety, sadness, etc…)

  • Parents may be excited because their little girls & boys are going into new classes come September. An indication that they are growing up.
  • Some are excited because they are one year closer to stop buying uniforms and a great deal of books… or so they think.
  • Vendors or store managers are excited at the prospect of making huge profits.
  • Parents are excited to get the kids out of the house
  • Some teachers are not amused
  • Some parents/guardians may not be so happy because of the amount of money they are about to spend
  • Some children may be happy/sad because they will either get what they want or they may not.
  • Some students may be excited about returning to school; others may just be ready to conveniently become ill.
  • Some may not be so happy because they do not have the amount of money they think they are supposed to spend.
  • Some vendors may not be as lucky as others to be patronized as they are numerous.

The preparation can be extremely expensive as there are certain things we believe we MUST buy. But as you go through this phase just a few reminders:

  • I hope you made a budget: stick to it!
  • Does your child REALLY need a new pair of shoes at this time?  Do not be a slave to tradition that says a child must always receive new gears to go back to school. If your child ended the school year with a pair of shoe that is in excellent condition, and your financial situation does not permit you purchase a new pair at that time, then do not buy it.  The same goes for the bag pack and uniforms.
  • Books! These can cost you a fortune.  Some of the books will be given to students by the school others you will have to purchase. Do not be afraid or ashamed to exchange or purchase used texts once they are in good condition. You could save BIG!   If are unable to purchase them all at once, purchase what you are able t but make sure there is a plan to purchase the remaining set as SOON as possible.
  • Do not give in to the pressure of your children.  Kids will be kids. They will articulate all the fancy things they desire especially if their friends have similar things. They will turn on the charm and you may be very tempted BUT, remember you make the money and you know your budget.  Succumbing to the charms of your kids could be your easiest path to financial slum. What do you want them to learn about financial management? You could start here.  So the ball is in your court. Play it right.
  • While you are spending, make sure you have plan for how your child will attend school at least for the first month.   Notice I said plan? Maybe you do not currently have the funds but you must have a plan as to how to accumulate it.
  • Pep talk.  Share with them the progress of preparation.  Some you may have to give that talk as to why they will not be receiving a new pair of shoes/bag/uniform at this time.  Remember, this is a good opportunity to teach your child about good financial management.

I’m sure this would have been more useful if it was posted earlier BUT, it is never too late to take your finances under control.   As they saying goes, it is never too late for a shower of rain.

I hope you my readers will find this useful.   By the way, as I wrote this, I recalled some of my bitter sweet my back to school experiences.  Many times I cried.  Many times I screamed with excitement.  What about you?

Please, take a minute and share what was bitter sweet about your back to school experiences.

CXC/CSEC EXAMINATION RANKING: SENSELESS STATISTICS

14 Aug

I’ve always loved this cartoon…it accurately captures how assessments are carried out in our education system

 

I find the ranking of schools based on CXC passes as unfair, unjust, unreasonable, absurd, preposterous, illogical, unreliable and senseless as can be. CXC/CSEC passes do NOT reflect the performance of a school.

Let us look at some facts:

Type of Students:  All schools are different and function under varying circumstances.   Most schools like a Campion college is ranked number one at the CXC/CSEC level with every cohort of student that enter its doors. You know why?  The students who most time matriculate to such an institution are always the top students in the GSAT examination. They scored grades 96-100.    More often than not, the students who attend this particular institution, are from affluent backgrounds, thus their parents can provide all the relevant resources and pay for numerous extra-classes or better yet TUTORING SESSION that these students need. It therefore stands as foregone decision that these students will five years later, produce similar results to make the institution be ranked at number one.

Meanwhile in another institution such as  such as Tacious Golding High or any other school that is currently ranked at the bottom of this performance listing, generally receive a quota of students who perform at the lowest levels in the GSAT examination. It can therefore be postulated that such schools would have been ranked at that level the moment it receives it cohort of students each year.

Environment:  How many of you have ever been on the grounds of a Campion College?  If not, you need to. That place is like a mini university. The moment you enter the gates, there is an atmosphere of business.  You pass a well-kept and design parking lot and enter a COURT YARD!   Can you believe that?  This court yard reminds you of the European/renaissance era. How many schools possess that. The compound is huge! There are adequate classrooms, pools, tennis courts, a STATE OF THE ART LIBRARY, and the list goes on.  You all know what a university looks like so just imagine a mini model of that.  This is an environment conducive for learning.  Compare this to a school where there is no parking lot or if there is one it accommodate no more than five vehicles;  classrooms are inadequate and classes are conducted under trees; rooms are over crowded with only a few feet students from the chalkboard;  library is housed in a make shift room with out dated books; the computer room has about 15-20 computers to serve the entire school populace (and I am talking hundreds of students). Some schools are even situated in the heart of garrisons where classes are sometimes interrupted by acts of violence.

 

THE Court Yard at Campion College High School

Resources:  This is always a sore point in discussion about education.  Most schools tend to have a deficiency in this area but some schools are more chronic.  If Campion is a min-university, then you know that resources are in abundance.  There are other schools that are average where as these are concerns but some are less than average.  The fact is, without resources, (books; lab equipment; technology, among others) the teaching and learning process with be challenging.

These are by no means the only reasons Because others such as The quota of students sent for CXC/CSEC sitting by an institution; the policies of schools, etc… but I think I have made my point with these few.

The main point is, even though these schools receive poor performance students, do not possess an environment conducive for learning, lack resources, and do not produce results of a Campion College, it does NOT mean the school is under performing.   When you are doing laundry, do you wash your whites with your dark colours? I didn’t think so.  You separate them to ensure the whites remain snow white without being affected by the dye from the dark colours.  There are also those outfits that are made from delicate fabric and you will launder those separately. Some you take to the cleaners.  Like your laundry, you cannot just bundle all schools together and then label some schools as poor performing institutions. In assessing performance of schools several approach could be taken;

  • Assess schools in categories:  Bundle schools with similar capacity like Campion College and assess them against each other and vice versa for the others;
  • Assess schools against themselves: assessment in the form of  pre-test should be done one schools to determine where they are; subsequent post-test should be done which could be the CXC/CSEC and then compare the post-test with pre-test.  Then the performance of such institution can be determined.
  • Five year Plan: all schools have a five year plan.  Look what in that five year plan addresses student’s performance. Then when the assessment is done, you look at the progress of the institution and deduce from the results to see whether or not the school was on a path to achieve what is laid out in that five year plan.

The ranking of schools in this manner has made CXC/CSEC examination more about statistics than the students.  In an effort to be ranked among top performers based on CXC/CSEC results have caused several institutions to implement policies that prevent students from sitting these examinations earlier than the eleventh grade. This is because the institution would not have that student as part as its statistics when the same cohort of student sits the examination in the eleventh grade.  I find this unreasonable as it is marring the progress of students.  If a student or the parents believe they are capable of taking on the task of sitting a subject at an earlier age, then I do not believe that any school has the right to hold such a student back. But such is the direct consequence of these unfair, unreasonable, and unreliable ranking of schools based on CXC/CSEC passes.