For the past few days, there has been many debates, news headlines and discussions regarding Calabar High School in Jamaica. The school administration has taken the decision, that students who wish to advance to fifth form will have to maintain a minimum average of sixty percent. They have further decided that once all options to assist the students in maintaining the minimum average have failed, students will have to leave the school. Media reports have stated that as many as fifty students have been asked to leave the school since this decision has been taken. The decision has sparked outraged by many educational bodies, social groups and Jamaicans at large. The Ministry of Education in Jamaica has gone as far as saying “it is illegal.” This situation is very sad and another defining moment in our education system that has been enduring a number of controversy recently. Here are Sharla‘s Thoughts on the matter.
Every school in Jamaica must have standards. They should not only have standards, but high standards. We teach our children from a young age to reach for the stars and become stars. How do we expect them to do this if we do not set high standards? The standards that are set by our schools, specifically our high schools, are not only for the schools to boost their rankings, but also for our students to aim for high academic achievements.
The situation at Calabar High is not unique and I believe we are being unfair to them. The act of not allowing students to advance to fifth form if they do not maintain a particular average, has been happening in most high schools in Jamaica. In fact, I go a step further to say that, some high school does not accept GSAT students if they do not have high averages. This has been a long standing practice in Jamaica. Let us be fair and admit that most of our high schools are guilty of this act.
As I stated earlier, I agree our schools should have standards, however the measurement standards that are currently being used cannot work. They cannot work, as an overall average is not a true measure of a student’s potential. A student completing eight or ten subjects in fourth form will have high grades in most of their subjects and poor grades in one or two subjects. When the poor grades are combined with the better grades and averaged, you may find that the overall average for the student is below the school’s standard. The student will then be prevented from attending fifth form because of one or two poor grades decreasing their overall average. My suggestion is that schools set a standard minimum grade each student should receive per subject. Once the student is able to achieve the minimum grade for each subject, then they should be allowed to advance to fifth form and complete the subjects they have achieved the minimum grades for. This will ensure students are not removed from school and will have the opportunity to complete CSEC examinations.
CSEC passes should not be the only measurement standards in schools. Consideration should be given to implementing Heart Trust NTA programs in schools as well. This will provide all students with the opportunity to learn a skill. I know there is often a stigma attached to Heart Trust where many believe it is “poor people thing”. This is simply not the case. Heart Trust NTA provides its trainees with a high level of training. They provide a combination of written and practical training inclusive of role plays, assessments and various exercises. This will ensure that when you complete a training program you will be able to demonstrate what you have learned. They also have different levels for each program, which allows you to continually upgrade your qualification. Many do not know this but, a level 5 qualification at Heart Trust is equivalent to a Bachelor degree that one would achieve at university. Futhermore, I have found that persons certified by Heart Trust are able to gain employment easier than persons with only CSEC passes.
My final suggestion is to reduce the number of extracurricular activities, students are involved in. I believe that students should participate in extracurricular activities, however they spend more time travelling to different parishes competing in various competitions and very little time is left for school work. Many of these competitions are held for three to six months, sometimes more. One extra curricular activity per student is satisfactory. The organizers of these activities should also be provided with a specific timeline, by the Ministry of Education, as to how long each competition should be. Remember without even the basic Mathematics and English subjects, how will students who go on to play professionally after high school, in different areas, read their contracts or understand the math included? When their professional career has ended and they have no academic qualifications, what will they do? This matter must be looked at carefully.
These are just a few suggestions I wanted to share. Keep in mind Education is the key to success, crime reduction, growth of our country and empowerment of everyone. Now you’ve heard my thoughts, tell me what you think.