JIS News

Education Minister, Andrew Holness has expressed concern over what he says is the lack of active participation by parents in their children’s educational development.
Speaking at the launch of the 2008 staging of the Kiwanis Club of New Kingston’s spelling competition for basic schools at the Hilton Kingston Hotel on Wednesday (March 26), Mr. Holness said the “absence of parents from the education system” had created problems for teachers, many of whom he noted, “now feel very much overburdened.”
“They (teachers) not only have to be academic leaders in the classroom, but they (now) have to deal with (the) behavioural problems (of students), and now they have to become parents in many respects,” the Minister stated.
Mr. Holness stressed that the efforts by the Ministry and other sector stakeholders and interests in the development of the education system would amount to nothing unless parents played their part in the process.
“Because with all of the academic leadership we display in the schools, all (of) the effort that we put in to ensuring that we change teaching methods, that we cater to special needs, that we improve our assessments, (and) that we improve our curriculum, when that child leaves the learning institution and goes home, all of that is erased if there is no parallel reinforcement of what is being taught in the schools (by parents). And so I ask our parents, especially those who have young children, to take an active role in your child’s educational endeavours, play an active role in the schools,” the Minister implored.
Mr. Holness noted that one of the most significant failings of the country’s education system was its facilitating the movement of students from one grade to another, through “social promotion,” without any quality control check to ensure that when they leave the primary system, they can actually read, write, and comprehend, in order to be able to access the secondary curriculum.
“So we have many students at the secondary level, who cannot access the secondary curriculum (so) it becomes frustrating to them. And that frustration is shown in behavioural problems – disruption of the classroom, fights, violence and aggression,” the Education Minister pointed out.
To this end, he said part of the Ministry’s behaviour management strategy for such situations was to ensure that students were actually benefiting from the curricula and what was being delivered in the classroom. In this regard, he advised that steps have been taken to ensure that every child is literate and numerate before taking the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT).
“But let’s go a little bit further than that, we have to ensure that every child who is leaving the early childhood institutions, is properly stimulated to learn when they go into primary schools, because that is the key. When children leave early childhood institutions and they are not properly stimulated, in other words, they are not ready to access the primary curriculum, teachers have great difficulty with them. And so we have put in the Grade One individual learning profile, and that is a diagnostic assessment of exactly where that child is upon entering the primary system, coming out of early childhood institutions,” Mr. Holness informed.
He added that initiatives such as the Kiwanis Club of New Kingston’s spelling competition helped with this form of early stimulation.
“The competition helps in developing stimulation, and if you start from an early age, when they are interested, they can absorb at a faster rate. In fact (it is) at that (early childhood) stage that (it) is the fastest rate at which they will absorb information,” the Minister pointed out.
He further said that “education is a very expensive venture, but it is far less expensive than ignorance, so we really have no choice but to afford it. The government’s budget certainly cannot afford all of the educational provisions that are necessary. But we welcome, we encourage, and we are heartened when we see voluntary organizations, private individuals, take up that social responsibility to fill that funding gap to do projects such as this (spelling competition).”
The Kiwanis Club of New Kingston’s spelling competition, dubbed: ‘Spelling Your Way to the Top’, has been a feature on the organization’s calendar for the past five years. It entails competition among basic schools which the organization either works with, or that are invited to participate. Some 17 schools will take part in this year’s renewal.

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