Tag Archives: politics

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.

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EDUCATION TO HEAD-DECAY-TION: WHOSE FAULT IS IT-TEACHERS OR GOVERNMENT?

30 May

*“If education is the key, tell me who change the lock….”     but has the lock really changed or  is it that the key did not fit from the onset?

It is just absolutely disappointing yet not surprising the ugly turn that this situation with the Minister of Education has become.  Doran Dixon in the past has been a very good president of the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA).  It was under his presidency that teachers received the most satisfactory wage increase and other benefits.  Despite, this, I will be one of the first to admit that his analogy re the minister of education as a mongrel dog was unfortunate, inappropriate and unacceptable.   But what strike me the most about this matter is the numerous persons including Principals and members of the Jamaica Parent Teachers Association (JPTA) who immediately rushed to chastise him for the same.

When Rev. Ronnie Thwaites made the pronouncement about retracting study leave with pay, I did not hear these persons ( principals & PTA representatives) adding their voices to the discourse in defense of teachers entitlement.  But it is not surprising. Only who feels it knows it.  The benefits allotted to principals are quite attractive and so it seems that the plights of a regular classroom teacher are not recognized by some of them.    As for the JPTA organization of Jamaica, I have never heard that organization start a discourse about the absence of parental involvement in schools, or high level of violence in schools, yet on Mr Dixon comment seem to have allowed them to emerge from the shadows.    What is now unfortunate is that the important issues are being ignored and the emphasis is now on the comment made by former JTA president.

 THE DISCOURSE IS INCORRECTLY FOCUSED

How can the education system move forward if we continue to ignore what the real issues are?  The recent report by the National Education Inspectorate with the damning information about the education system that the ministry of education made public, is laying the blame squarely at the feet of teachers.   It is quite disappointing that Mr Thwaites would stoop so low as to use information in the context of ammunition for his lack of disregard for teachers.      In his most recent interview on the matter he advanced that this information was presented to him some time ago.  My question is, why wasn’t it made public before?  Why wait until now when he is about to recant the provision that allows for continued professional development of teachers?   Such action in my mind alludes to his intention of vilifying teachers in order to justify his decision

The last fifty years, our education system has not grown significantly because there is a lack of investment by the powers that be. This further indicates why the economy has not grown.   It is the human resource of a country that contributes to its growth process. But how can we improve human resource when there is little or no investment in education.  The education ministry should be investing base on per student capita, not a general school populace. No wonder Jamaica’s education system is the worst in the Caribbean and possible the world. ( I will have to do some research on this)  the current discourse should be about what has the government invested or NOT invested why over the years, we fail to improve the education system.  There should be implementation of best practices adopted from other countries/regions where their education system is flourishing.  Therefore, the focus of the discourse is wrong.

This is should be focus of our government

If only our leaders could effectively do this….

 

DOUBLE STANDARDS

The damning reports also revealed that leadership is a major problem.  If my knowledge serves me well, and I know it does, It is the ministry that approves principalship.    Each school in Jamaica has an education officer whose task is to work closely with a school’s administration and hold them accountable.  The education officers must report to the permanent secretary.  It therefore mans that if incompetent leaders are in our schools, somebody is NOT doing their job is it is definitely not the teachers.  So I ask the question, who is attacking thing from that perspective? I therefore say Mr Thwaites need to pick the beam from his eye so he can clearly see what is in someone else’s.

The double standard continues.     The last fifty years, the economy of Jamaica has deteriorated to a crisis level.   Our dear politicians- who Mr Thwaites is one- are responsible for all the policies and decisions made.   Cumulatively, the decisions made by the political representatives have only served to put the country into further peril-further decay of education. Therefore if this is not under performance I do not know what is. Yet still, they have been rewarded with multimillion dollar SUVs.  It therefore means the same country that is unable to keep teachers on study leave with pay because of a lack of resource yet it can afford to give these high end vehicles.  Yet, the populace did not make it their mandate to lobby against such actions.  Why didn’t they cut their benefits as a symbolic gesture to the nation that they are also holding strain?   Teachers are easy target.

It doesn’t stop there. Numerous politicians have been missing parliamentary sittings without apologies and no logical explanation. Yet still they have retained their positions in the government and reaping benefits.  But tell me, which teacher can just opt not to attend work at his or her leisure without facing dire consequences?  Impossible!!!!   The politicians do it all the time though with no ramifications.  Yet, the common consensus is that teachers are failing.  Where is the equity in measuring performance?  The real question therefore is; is it our teachers that are failing or is it that our Education managers have FAILED to adequately manage education?

This article is in no way trying to paint a perfect picture of teachers because I do believe we have a few incompetent ones in the system BUT  I believe the main problem with our education system is not with the teachers but the short comings and short sighted and politically driven policy makers who are at the helm.  They are using the WRONG key.  As with most things, someone must take the fall and in this case it’s the teachers.

Education is not a romping shop

*line taken from the poem “Locks & Keys” by Sabrena McDonald.

*images taken from google pictures

TEACHERS: JAMAICA’S BEATING STICK?

18 May

WHAP! WHAP! WHAP!  That’s the sound of the *subble- jack been levied on ‘back’ the teaching profession.

In this institution of Education, the whimpy teachers try their best but it is never good enough. They continue to be bullied by the bullies of this ‘school’-government of Jamaica.  It is just sad. The teachers cry out! They scream yet their voices continue to be unheard. They are sick and so tired of the beating.   Filled with scars and bruises from the whip of society, teachers continue to press on.     When these bullies decide to levy a beating, they come harmed with assortment of weapons: low performance, too much holidays; support from the public; pay them by performance; they are not qualified….and the list continues.  As they pile these weapons up, the teachers are placed in a “circle” and are whipped mercilessly!!    Despite all the beatings, with scars and bruises, they continue to do the best they can with the basket they are given to carry the water.

WHAP! WHAP!  That is the sound of the most recent set of lashes.  These lashes from the recent pronouncement by the Minister of Education to suspend study leave with pay for teachers which has sparked severe controversy and outrage among the nation teachers.  This he claims is a condition under the standby agreement with the IMF.    How ludicrous. The whimpy teachers were asked to agree to a wage freeze along with other public sector workers which they did. Throughout the negotiations, there was  ‘P.T. A’ meeting (communication through media) to inform the nation of this arrangement.   Now like general King Kong, our dear Minister of education who is the Principal of this institution call education announced the revocation of the ONLY benefit that teachers receive.

 

THE NEVERS OF THE SYSTEM

It is really sad that the blame for the low performance of the nations’ children is levied solely at the feet of teachers;  I have never heard society come out and lobby for parents to become more active players in their children’s education;  I have never heard society lobby for the ministry of education to provide the schools with more resources; I have never heard society lobby that the ministry engage the institutions that are responsible for training our teachers; Most importantly, I have never heard lobby for the ministry of education policy makers  to assess themselves as MOST of what happens in the school have to be sanctioned by the Ministry of Education.

Wouldn’t this be interesting

THE UGLY TRUTH

Most teachers colleges only offer teacher training to the diploma level. It therefore means if teachers need a first degree they would have to attend another university. Most of these universities offer education courses during the day. At that time our teachers will be in class teaching the same children who belong to these government officials.  The universities that offer courses in the afternoon are not quite accessible to some teachers who live in some very rural parts of the island.   I will agree that a number of off shore universities have come on stream and a number of teachers are making use of this BUT reality is that their fees are extremely expensive.   Some of them, the fee are paid in U.S. dollars and must be paid per course. Now, with the dollar sliding rapidly, how can some afford to pay this especially when teachers’ salaries are nothing to sing home about?  They have to try to attend our national institutions where it is more cost effective.

Most importantly, teaching and studying is no easy task. Let’s look at the logic.  I will use the example of a teacher who teaches English Language and English literature to grade 7, 8 & 9.  Those are three different grades, it therefore means, three sets of lesson plan per week for each.   That is no easy task.  Additionally, one of those classes contain 25-30 students (and that’s for the more privilege institutions). An English language and English literature exam with see students writing three essay’s per paper.  That is 75 essays per class for ONE SUBJECT.  Work out the math when you add the others bearing in mind some teachers teach more than three subjects.  Even if its class work and teacher collect books, it is still a lot for one person, yet the teachers do it.  Now, when a teacher is studying part time and has all this work to do, plus try to meet the demands of university, one runs the risk of short change in the system.   Either students will be short changed as teachers will not be able to give the great level of attention that is required or the teacher will risk performing at a mediocre standard or may not complete the higher level study.   What the study leave does is eliminate this problem. It facilitate teachers professional advancement as is stipulated by the ministry of education, and allow students to be given complete contact time as is required and more.

The ugly truth is some teachers cannot take one year study leave without pay for obvious reasons: family obligations, payment of fees, etc… and others cannot afford to study-part time because of the propensity of short changing their students and theirselves.

THE SAD TRUTH!

Most of the people who are making the decisions and are levying strong judgements against teachers would not have made their grade without their teachers.   The moment a child gets to age two, parents are pleading with teachers to take their child in their institutions.  Whenever a child does well is sports, performing arts, most times it is teachers who discover their talents that parents later bask in. whenever parents cannot parent their children, it is to teachers they turn to and beg for teachers to intervene.   When some parents cannot afford examination fees, uniforms, books, lunch for their children, it is the teachers who make the provision…. the list continues.  YET! Despite all these things, society cannot find it in themselves to give teachers the RESPECT they so rightly deserve. All they seem worthy of are lashes.

Scarred.  Battered. Bruised. Teachers of Jamaica continue to sit on the banks of river-schools, still attempting to use basket to pour water on coco leaf…(Rex Nettleford & Brian Heap).

WHAP! WHAP! WHAP!… so the beating continues…

Stay tuned… share your thoughts

*subble-jack is a whip use for beating mostly donkeys my grandparents once told me.

*image retrieved from google pictures.