Over the past few years, we have looked into the issue of failing schools and now, prison school but seldom have we looked into the issue of bad parenting or poor/non-existent ministry policies to aid in improving the products of these schools.
The problem of students failing or being ‘bad’ is one that extends far beyond the doors of our schools and far out of the reach of administrators many of the times. If we look at the location and the overall quality performance of the students we send to most of the schools listed as prison/failing schools, we realize that they are not necessarily the top of the lot and studies have shown that students with bad academic performance have a greater tendency to exhibit antisocial behaviour. It therefore means that for these institutions, it cannot be business as usual. We cannot have the same set of administrative and curricular principles to govern these schools and that is where we have gone fundamentally wrong and where the Ministry of Education has failed us.
It is imperative that the ministry put in place policies to help these students lift their performance and ultimately their behaviour ‘above par’. These institutions being constantly given these bad labels , in many cases, are understaffed and to compound that problem; too large a student population, hence a high student to teacher ratio and an inability to facilitate the individual needs.
A few of the solutions which I posit to the Minster of Education and his technocrats are to:
1) Seek to decrease the student to teacher population in these underperforming schools.
2) Tailor the curriculum to suit the needs of these students and send in subject specialists (many teachers are not trained to deal with special needs students and that remains a fundamental problem in their underperformance).
3) Launch a national campaign on parenting best practices to educate our parents and the general community in dealing with children who need a bit more attention. Too often we create programmes for the average/ideal child, not realizing that not everyone will meet the idealistic tenets of these proposals.
4) Launch a campaign in the communities where these so called failing/prison schools are located. Many a times, the community and the principles preached by and of these communities are what lead these underperforming students to believe that school is really just a part of the cycle which they must pass through with no expectation of going beyond the secondary education level because they are from ghettos and failing communities and hence there is no hope.
The time has come for us to take collective responsibility for the level of criminality and illiteracy facing our nation. Many of our children termed as failing only need a bit more attention, a bit more encouragement from the society but many a times we let them down. We marginalize them and we belittle them. We are a nation of great people with great potential and every one of us is human with the same basic components… Some of us just need a bit more push to achieve the same thing. Together we can and must transform Jamaica; one school at a time, one child at a time. God bless Jamaica.
Aujaé K. Dixon