JIS News

Local educators should ensure that all Jamaicans are afforded the right to access a “good education”, not just any form of education, according to Vice President of Northern Caribbean University (NCU), Dr. William Smith.
Speaking with JIS News, Dr. Smith said that not all education could be defined as “good”, a point he will be underscoring in his presentation on: ‘The Right to Access a Good Education’, at a two-day symposium on Human Rights and the Administration of Justice, to be held at NCU in Mandeville from February 22 to 23.
“The topic is actually extending something already commonly known to all of us, which is the right to access education. Now we are talking about the right to access a good education, the key word being good,” he said.
Defining the concept of a good education, Dr. Smith said this was based on four main pillars – healthy living, moral living, preparation for active citizenship and economic viability.
“We will be looking at the question of how persons can access these components as part of a whole, as well as some current practices that we have identified as not good,” he added.
“Good education should teach life skills, career development that leads to a consistent livelihood, moral and ethical principles, including spiritual values, social interaction, which is the basis for co-operation and co-operative alliances, and it has to teach independence which is important for self reliance,” he explained.
The Vice President argued that any educational institution found lacking on these terms, ought not to be classified as providing young Jamaicans with a good education.
He further noted that overcrowding in classrooms and the presence of unqualified teachers served to impede individual rights to a good education.
Dr. Smith said that if education was seen as the key to national development, from which everyone should benefit, then all should have the right to access an education system that would take them to the tertiary level.
“But, our education system should not be geared solely towards ensuring economic development. It should go beyond that, by focusing on the values of being a good citizen, so one can co-operate for the total development of all,” he explained.
Examining the current state of Jamaica’s education system, Dr. Smith noted that during the last 10 to 15 years, many of the institutions that were not previously seen as providing a good system, have moved towards including some of these vital components.
He pointed out that many local institutions, including those at the tertiary level, have been incorporating values and attitudes in their programmes.
“But at the same time, there are some institutions emerging, particularly at the tertiary level, that are simply focusing on the economic benefits of the system. Those, in the long run, we find are not providing what we would classify as a good education,” he said.
Dr. Smith said that aside from the Ministry itself, administrators within the institutions have a great part of the responsibility in providing quality assurance.
The Vice President commended institutions operated by churches, such as NCU, which sought to ensure the inclusion of values in their academic programmes.

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