MONTEGO BAY — Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, has said that the Government will have to take a radical approach to intervening in failing schools.
"The concept of a failed school has not yet entered the vocabulary of Education in a significant way in the region, but I do not think that we are doing our children a service if we allow these schools to continue to exist without radical intervention," Mr. Holness said.
He was addressing the official opening of the 23rd Biennial Conference of the Caribbean Association of Principals of Secondary Schools (CAPSS), on Monday July 18, 2011 at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort and Spa, Ocho Rios, St. Ann.
With the theme of the conference being, “Secondary Education in the Caribbean: A 21st Century Perspective”, he said that it would allow for general examination with a view to developing and sharing practical solutions in a coherent policy framework.
He alluded to the challenges of the secondary education system in Jamaica, pointing to issues such as school fees and preference of secondary schools.
"The social capital of our society should be such that schools understand that they are not operating under a market system, where only those who can afford the price get in, but you are operating under a meritocracy where you are only certain of the performance of the child and not the household income and, therefore, you have to be very careful how you set your fees,” he cautioned.
Mr. Holness urged the Principals not to set fees at a level where they become exclusionary to “bright” students from poor households.
Explaining what results in light of the challenging school preferences, he said that the issue of quality was easily tracked by virtue of the preference of the parents who, in their preferences for their children who sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), normally rank schools according to their views of the quality of the school.
He said that there are 167 schools in Jamaica, 50 of which are considered to be schools of choice, leaving 117 schools to work with.
“We have a school that is offering 400 spaces and a total of seventeen parents chose that school,” he explained.
He said that if parents do not want the space, they are not going to invest in the school, and children are considered failures if they are placed in those schools. However, he noted that the Government was working to achieve a common view among parents that all school spaces are equal.
He commended CAPSS on helping school leaders understand policy issues in accessing quality secondary education, and encouraged participants to grasp all they could from the conference. The conference is expected to conclude on Friday, July 22.
By ALDEEN CAMPBELL, JIS Reporter