Archive | January, 2014

EDUCATION & CRIME: THE MINISTER BLUNDERED (WELCOME TO LOCK DOWN HIGH SCHOOL)

25 Jan

One word.  OUTRAGEOUS!!! Well…that is even an understatement to describe the Minister of Education’s (MOE) parliamentary presentation of the findings of the research conducted by  Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) entitled:  “Education and Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates in Jamaica”.

New name for schools: Lock Down High School

My first inclination was to vehemently lash out against the JCF for its findings but somehow a voice of reason whispered in my ear “DON’T!. Look at the research more thoroughly”.  I paused. Then told myself I need to get hold of it. Thankfully my learned friend Gavin Myers who always stayed in the loop posted it on facebook.  “Great” I thought. (facebook actually has some worth readers)  I read. I am still thoroughly analyzing it but I have read enough to comment on the matter.

Let us get something clear. While the research findings alluded to a correlation between schools and criminals, it DID NOT label schools as “Prison Schools” nor “breeding grounds for criminals”.  As a matter of fact, it highlighted several socio-economic issues that may have influenced the shaping of  criminal minds among our youths  such as single parenting, school dropouts, community influence, little or no parental involvement,  etc…   The research had other short comings such as no proof of the veracity of information provided by inmates re the school attended; the length of time they attended the institution; the time period they attended; was that the only institution they attended; the time frame within which the research was carried out; the conditions under which it was done, etc…    The research even highlighted some of these short comings, yet our dear MOE saw it fit to table this in parliament and gloss over the other issues and focused his attention on schools by calling them “breeding grounds for criminals”.

I have always had great respect for the intellectual acumen of Mr Ronnie Thwaites but I am convinced this time around, his usual perspicacity went on a hiatus.   I was left to ask the question: What exactly was the minister’s objective when he decided to table this research in the parliament?  Our politicians have become proficient in gaining political mileage at the vilification of others that it is unclear when the utterances of our politicians are completely altruistic versus self-interest.

Regardless of what his intentions were, I believe his utterances were reckless, careless, inappropriate, unwarranted, in sensitive, you name it.  (List the others for me.)  

guess this is why they are called prison schools

How can you label schools as breeding ground for criminals when our society is replete with social disintegration issues?   Some of the schools singled out in this research are located in garrisons, and nine out of ten children living in those communities will attend these schools.  In most cases the informal institutions within these communities take precedence over those of the schools, how then do you blame a school for the path that these former students took?  Some of these youngsters enter high schools as harden criminals as they have already been through the rudimental training in their communities and have been elevated to ‘experts’.   Schools are not rehabilitation centers, yet, they have rehabilitated several of our youths through numerous interventions.  Had it not been for schools, there is a strong possibility that we would have more criminals within society.   Like you have said in your presentation Mr. Thwaites, teachers are not trained in teachers colleges to deal with the behavioural problems associated with these social deficits yet, they attempt to rehabilitate. Clearly Mr Thwaites, the efforts of these institutions are still not enough for you.

We ought not to forget that schools are microcosm of society hence the problem within schools are symptomatic of the wider society.   This should be a perfect opportunity to assess each variable and attack them individually in an attempt to erase crime.

As if the minister’s pronouncement was not enough, the media added insult to injury.   I was horrified when I saw the headlines in the print media the following morning with the title “Prison schools”. Are these people out of their minds?  How insensitive and irresponsible can one be?  But then again, why am I am surprised?  The media has become a specialist in sensationalism.  (rolling my eyes)   To attach a such a derogatory label to an educational institution charge with the mandate of molding young people is preposterous!   Have you ever heard there is power in the tongue?   My grandmother would say  “stop wash mouth pon people pickney”  (read: do not make bad prediction about others ) Did the media and the minister think about how such labels can affect the morale of staff and students at the institutions named?  Some schools are already suffering a deficit in this area and its leaders are working hard to improve it.  Comments of this nature does very little to assist them.

dismantling school to prison pipeline

Amidst my ranting, I must commend the JCF for taking the initiative do a research of this nature as it has never been done in Jamaica.   This research is in its embryonic stage and based on the short comings/loopholes of this research, the validity and reliability is questionable.  Nonetheless they are on to something.  In other jurisdiction there has been talks about dismantling the pipeline that runs from schools to prisons.  Therefore, this research  has opened the door for extensive research on various socio-economic issues and their impact on education and national security and to keep us on par with global trends in education.  This is the opportunity the minister should have seen; reach out to school administrators; decide on the way forward. This is a perfect opportunity for collaboration of efforts among the MOE, school administrators, security force, social workers, The Child Development Agency, and several other stakeholders.

The damage has been done. Several principals, teachers and students have been hurt by these utterances.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean fences cannot be mended.  Yes, prides have been hurt but there is a greater good that we are working towards…the betterment of our education system.

My closing argument, Minister of Education Mr Ronnie Thwaites, you owe the educational institutions especially those named in the report an apology.

*pictures used in this articleswas taken from google images

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PULL-STRING PLACEMENT FOR POSITION OF PRINCIPAL

18 Jan

I told you so. Yup! I did.

Once again the performance of schools is under the radar but guess what?  Yes, the teachers are not the focus. (can I get a hallelujah shout?)

 The recent flurry of comments/discourse about the state of leadership in our schools triggered by the findings of National Education (NEI)  inspectorate is “being a long time coming” (Using Sam Cooke’s voice) so can’t say I am surprised.  So what is the hoop-la-hah about?  This problem of poor leadership at the principal level is not a new development. Our education managers had simply turned a blind eye. In my blog post Ed-decay-tion:Whose fault is it I wrote that the problem of education is being attacked from the wrong place…the teachers. I was subjected to much criticism for this. I explained that if teachers are failing then someone is not doing their jobs. While teachers have a task to carry out, often their failure is symptomatic of a bigger problem.   For this blunt statement, I was highly criticized by many but it is about time the spotlight be refocused and there are myriad reasons for this.

 

 

Continued Professional Development

Teachers have been constantly chastised for being a failure;  a failure sometimes attributed to abstinence from continued professional development, while administrators have been overlooked. How sensible is this?  Why must our administrators be let off the hook when they are at the helm of the organization?  Why must they be overlooked when it is their vision for the institution that is guiding the strategies employed within the institution?  How many of our principals can respond appropriately regarding global trends in education? How many of our schools’ administrators are aware of the current best practices in education administration?  How many principals turned out for the MANDATORY training seminar again?  I wonder what will be the sanction for missing this important professional development session.

Like with everything else, the education landscape evolves, and it is only to our peril if our education administrators do not keep pace.

 

Pull String Position

Several persons occupying the coveted post of principal have been ‘placed’ there not because they are competent and has a trailing track record of success in the area; but because someone influential ‘pull-a-string’ (read:do you a favour ).  Meaning, they are strong affiliated with a church; may be a ‘good’  past student of the institution;  has strong political connection, etc, etc, etc…  Don’t get me wrong, I am not averse to the concept of ‘pull string’.  (Who wouldn’t be comfortable to have someone who could make acquiring that top job easier?)  What I am averse to is ‘pulling string’ for someone who is not proficient in the area, and when they fail to deliver, someone else takes the lashing.  So then, why do we complain when the mode of appointment for principalship is subject to capture?  (Roll my eyes and shrug my shoulders). Why do we complain when the monitoring and evaluation process of same is weak and there is a lack of accountability?  Economist Douglas North et al  purports that institutions must be robust enough to avoid capture and must also embody the elements that  is will encourage accountability and transparency.  Our education system seems to be operating contrary to this.  The appropriate institutions to ensure efficiency are missing…so what do we expect?  It therefore means our policy makers and all other stakeholders need to go back to the drawing board. Some principals are in the post.  .

We cannot re-vamp an education system by repeatedly targeting one group.  A system is made up of all parts intricately woven to function collaboratively for an effective workable system. It is like a motor car. You cannot service one part & not service the others. That would be grave injustice.  I have always and will continue to maintain that complete change in education system will only start to manifest when there is a shake-up of the upper hierarchy. Start at the top and like a bucket overflowing with water, it will trickle to the base.

Amidst my ranting, I must commend the Minster of Education and his team for finally turning the lens to look at another aspect of the education system regardless of the fact that he was prompted or better yet pushed over the wall to do so.  The litmus test is, how far will this attempt go?  We are not society known for having the gumption to relentlessly pursue initiatives to effect change. We bask in the nine day talk, and on the tenth day it is the ‘business as usual’ model.

supervision and leadership

 Our education system is not perfect but it has indeed come a far way… if our education managers had the super vision supported by appropriate strategies then it would have further improvement. Nonetheless, an effort is an effort regardless of when it comes I can’t knock the effort before giving it a try. I am therefore waiting to see how this initiative of focusing at leadership of the nation schools will evolve.

*some pictures taken from google images