Education Minister Calls for National Debate on Behaviour in Schools


Minister of Education and Youth, Maxine Henry Wilson has called for a national debate on behaviour in schools, that will generate a consensus about standards in the classroom.
“We need to have some common agreement as to what it is that we expect in schools,” she told educators attending the 2nd Biennial Conference on Education and Behaviour Management presented by the Mico University College Child Assessment and Research in Education (CARE) Centre, at the Jamaica Conference Centre on May 25.
She cautioned that pressure on schools to relax certain standards, such as the wearing of uniforms by students, could open the door to more disorder in the schools.
“My response is, if you give in to the wrong shoes and the wrong socks, you will soon give in to the wrong skirt, and it goes on until we lose control. We need to have a national debate on these issues, and for us to all agree that there are certain standards that must be met in the classroom, and if you begin to relent, then you open the gate to massive indiscipline. Therefore, we have to agree on those standards, so we need a debate,” she emphasized.
In the meantime, the Minister announced that the Ministry was developing a national code of conduct for schools, which parents would be required to sign, under a Home School Agreement.
“We are codifying what we expect of parents, we’re codifying what we expect of schools, and we’re codifying what we expect of the relationship between the school and the parents. At the beginning of the school year, the parents will be required to sign this code – this home school agreement. It will come out of a national code of conduct that we are developing for all schools,” she pointed out.
The Minister noted that while the education regulations already allude to conduct, and some schools already have a code of conduct in place, “we want to make it far more explicit than it is at the moment.”
Underscoring the importance of the home component in behaviour management, Mrs. Henry Wilson outlined a number parenting interventions that the Ministry would be promulgating to encourage parents to work more closely with schools to manage their children’s behaviour.
One such intervention that will come on stream under the Early Childhood programme, will mandate parents to do certain hours of parenting before their children can move on to the primary school level.
The Minister noted that the National Parent Teacher Association, which was formed last July “to work with the Ministry of Education and Youth and the schools, is actually enlivening the whole parent-teacher movement,” adding that, “it’s not just a situation with parents speaking about school fees or performance of school, it’s also to get parents to take on more of their responsibility.”
Turning to another factor in behaviour management, she observed that physical facilities of the school could either encourage or deter behaviour. “I advocate that every school needs an auditorium.a place where you can see and actually set the mood for the school. In the absence of that, what you have are thousands of students, but not a school,” she added.
She also recommended a place for students to sit and eat, as well as facilities that would enable guidance counsellors to carry out their work with students in a confidential atmosphere.
In addition, she informed that the new curricula that are being devised for the early childhood and primary school children would focus on imparting positive values. “The curriculum being devised by the Early Childhood Commission and the revised primary curriculum speak about how we make our children loving, how we make them thoughtful and considerate, how we make them disciplined, industrious and respectful, and concerned about the well-being of others,” she noted.
“In the training programme of the teacher training colleges, we really have to insert in it, values that we’re trying to teach those children,” she added.
Citing the many merits of Jamaica’s children, Mrs. Henry Wilson urged educators to bring these values to the fore. “Your task is to see how you can bring out the very best in them.and to ensure that the next generation of our young people understand that education is not only about certification, but citizenship,” she said.

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