The world is a collection of diversities from the shape of the clouds to the species of trees and insects, to shades of our skin and the colour of our eyes as humans. Even our hands, which are in principle the same; each finger has different finger prints.
Furthermore, when we measure we do not use the same unit of measurement for a bottle of water as we do for a bar of chocolate.
Where am I taking you with these seemingly random comments? Nowhere else but a nonstop ticket to our ‘glorified’ education system. Given all the diversity found so naturally in our ecosystem one question remains to be answered, ‘Why do we use one generic method of force-feeding our children information and expect each child to do well?’
I am an avid believer in the Ministry of Education’s slogan ‘Every child can learn, every child must learn,’ however there is a critical flaw in the Ministry’s approach in attempting to make this statement true. Just like the natural diversity illustrated by the planet, a diverse means of teaching is required to reach every child as indeed each child is capable of learning but at different paces and through different means.
It is therefore necessary that I attack the blatant issues that keep me awake at night.
First, the core of the education system must be examined. This of course is the labelling process which comes to fruition from childhood education into ‘bright’ and ‘dunce’. Many may see no issue with such a process as it is seen as the norm but it is a severe problem as this labelling creates a rigid dichotomy from the initial stages. This dichotomy creates the mindset of being a failure in the minds of young children who have been labelled as ‘dunce’ by a generic model of education which does not cater to the vast cross-section of thinking that exists in children. Can you imagine the psychological effects this can have on a child?
Psychological effects such as the self-fulfilling prophecy. The term “self-fulfilling prophecy” (SFP) was coined in 1948 by Robert Merton to describe “a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true.”
In the words of my grandmother “the tongue have power!” Dear education system, this is not OK!
To add to this already sad reality that exists for normally functioning kids, our system fails to adequately recognize children with learning disabilities such as autism, dyscalculia and dyslexia to name a few. The earlier the recognition of such disabilities the better for the child and the parents who should be assisted and given access special facilities. This illustrates that the very foundation (early childhood) of our education is weak.
Another dilemma is the idea of success that is painted by society itself where a child is only ‘successful’ when pursuing professions such as being a lawyer, doctor or nurse. These professions belong to the service industry which although important is not the avenue for economic growth that is desperately needed in Jamaica. The industry that will pave the path for the growth is that of the manufacturing industry as production creates productivity. Hence, the persons with skills in engineering, farming, industrial trades, construction trades, computer science and entrepreneurship are a necessity. Thus, our education system and our culture need to expose children to the wide variety of career fields available to them and not simply the traditional fields. Each child needs to know that they have a niche and the education system should be such that they can find it.
Every talent, skill or ability is useful. The Jamaican government needs to recognize this and harness the untapped potential of the youth. The education system’s unilateral approach leaves too many behind which should not be case. In the 21st century where there is so much knowledge and techniques at our fingertips, it is a shame that so many of our children get lost in the system. In fact, they may leave school without the core skills because of the ‘one size must fit all mentality.’
Of course, you may challenge my critiques by saying we do not have the money for such radical reform. However, I put it to you that our current system is way more costly when school leavers are unable to gain employment and turn to crime or rely on handouts to survive. There are so many potholes in our education system much like our roads which simple patching will not resolve. A complete reconstruction is necessary and I kindly ask the authorities to examine the effectiveness of the education system and fix the numerous issues that arise. I assure you that after remedying education, many other chronic problems will be significantly reduced.