JIS News

Jamaicans are welcoming the decision by the Government to reintroduce civics to the school curriculum, noting that it will help instil national pride and contribute to nation building.

The subject, which educates students about their rights, duties, and responsibilities as citizens, the structure and functions of government, the significance of national symbols and emblems, among other things, will be reinstated in all schools beginning September 3.

Civics was previously taught from grades seven to nine in all-age schools and at first form in high schools.

Portmore resident, Leighton Davis, who learnt civics while in school, says with the reintroduction, students will be able to garner relevant information regarding their country.

"There are a lot of Jamaican children that are not able to basically even tell you what the Governor-General does, what the Prime Minister does, what is Jamaica House for, the Parliament building and buildings like that.

"There are so many things that Jamaican children need to learn about the civics of the country,” he tells JIS News.

Kingston resident David Stewart, agrees that “civics in school is a very great thing because when I was going to school as a youngster, we did civics and it has enlightened me to the point where I understand how the country functions from a government point of view and I think civics is worthy to be placed back on the school syllabus."

Veronica Campbell, who also learnt civics in schoolt is also pleased at the move to return the subject to the curriculum.

She says that not only will children learn about national symbols and how government works, but how to be good citizens. 

“Things like helping each other, caring about the other person, and serving your community; these things are important. Also developing good character and showing courtesy and respect for others, kindness, these things are not taught in every home, so through civics education, they will learn these things,” she says.

Vice Principal of Oberlin High School, Audrey Francis, who taught civics, says an important element of civics education is teaching children about their rights and the fact that they have responsibilities as citizens of Jamaica.

She says that today’s, young people tend to say “we have rights” but they are not cognisant of the fact that “those rights are intertwined with responsibilities”.

“I do believe it (reintroduction of civics) is the best thing that could have happened because I know that I use to teach civics and when I did, you saw the practical side of everything, aspects of citizenship where students were educated about the rights and responsibilities,” she informs.

She notes that when civics was taught in school, students were more knowledgeable about government, the law, the police, the court system, elections and voting.  “Somehow, they had more civic pride because (we went) in depth in the subject, not just doing it in social studies (as is the case) now, and you do a topic here and there along the line,” she adds.

The Ministry of Education, on August 17, officially launched the new civics curriculum paving the way for the reintroduction of the subject at the early childhood, primary and secondary levels.

The move forms part of efforts by the Government to reinvigorate feelings of patriotism and civic pride among citizens about Jamaica, its development and achievements, as the country celebrates its 50th year of Independence this year.

The launch was made all the more significant as it coincided with the 125th anniversary of the birth of Jamaica’s first National Hero, the Right Excellent Marcus Garvey, whose teachings will make up the core of the new civics syllabus.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, in her message at the launch held at the Marcus Garvey High School in St. Ann, said the decision to incorporate the teachings of Garvey was to “say to our beloved National Hero, take your place in our schools as a master teacher of lessons for the second emancipation, the emancipation of the mind.”

Minister of Education, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, for his part, states that civics will be a mandatory part of the curriculum of every grade in schools across Jamaica “so that we can understand the pride and the dignity and the seriousness and the responsibility of being Jamaican.”

“We recognise that the objective of our education system cannot be to only have students, who are getting eight and 10 subjects at CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate). We want students, who are conscious of themselves, who know their place of dignity, of worth, who understand their rights and their responsibilities as citizens of Jamaica,” he says.

He underscores the importance of incorporating Garvey’s philosophies, noting that the National Hero stood for excellence and honesty, and that his message will help to build self-esteem and identity.

Director of the Culture in the Education Programme, Ministry of Education, Amina Blackwood-Meeks, who heads the team commissioned by the Ministry to draft the civics curriculum, explains to JIS News that a special handbook has been prepared, which will guide teachers in the teaching of Garveyism.

The handbooks titled: ‘The Teachings of Garveyism in the new Civics Programme’ is being made available to schools. 

"These quotations are not left to the imagination of the teachers but these quotations are written up in the handbook,” Mrs. Blackwood Meeks points out.

The Culture Director informs that all the topics on the syllabus will correspond to a major national event in each school-term.

"In the first term, the major national activity is Heritage Week so the themes are built around identity, heritage and celebration. In the second term, the major national activity is Jamaica Day…so (it will cover) everything we want our children to learn about celebrating Jamaica.  In the third term we use the occasion of Child Month to focus on human rights issues through looking at what are the rights of the child,” she tells JIS News.

Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Grace McLean, believes that the inclusion of Garveyism will foster self-affirmation and social transformation.

"The philosophy of this civics education programme is one of individual and social transformation. There is urgency to address the social and cultural identity deficits that serve as stumbling blocks in the desire of all Jamaican children to honour the greatness they have inherited by achieving greatness themselves”.

She says the programme will create self-awareness, awaken social consciousness and social responsibility, and “provide the experimental learning opportunities that will help our young people grow confidently, think critically, enhance their emotional competencies and the nature of their social interactions to produce citizens, who will assume their rightful place in Jamaica, as leaders and nation builders”.