Finally, a strongly worded sequel in The Sunday Gleaner by Gordon Robinson of Professor Orlando Patterson’s study of the failing state of the public education system.
This follows three Gleaner editorials of May 17, 18 and 22, which solicited responses from the public and decision-makers on its implementation. Comments and agreement on key issues have been received from experts, but a reluctance to engage on the part of the Jamaican government and Minister of Education may well be due to a lack of certainty as to the precise methods needed. for successful implementation. And whether the funding required will be worth it, depending on competing budget demands.
Currently, there is not an insufficient budget for education. Our education budget per capita exceeds that of the best performing Caribbean nations, but it is insufficient, indicating a misallocation of resources and calling for a major overhaul. This last point is reiterated by Mr. Robinson quoting Professor Patterson.
The missing link that seems to hamper policy makers and delay corrective action is the lack of agreement on when real education beginsand what immense importance it has for the further education and personal development of the individual, and, therefore, for the stability and prosperity of the nation.
The Jesuits, centuries ago, proclaimed: “Give me the child until he’s six and I’ll show you the man.”
This is in full agreement with today’s science, which has shown that during the period from birth to age six, the infant brain develops at the highest rate: the infant brain has been designed to absorb everything in its environment.
It is a remarkably effective method of education and socialization, but the catch is that this environment can be nurturing or damaging.
If the child receives loving and attentive care from birth, he will be safe, happy and ready to learn from all the stimuli presented.
If, on the other hand, the child is exposed to anger, abuse or neglect, he will be suspicious, withdrawn or hyperactive, unable to concentrate at best; violent and abusive, at worst.
The social crisis we face has its roots in the shortcomings of this vital period of learning. The stressors inflicted on the mother are rooted in the personality of the child. In conditions where mothers/parents are struggling to survive or, if working, do not have a satisfactory alternative to care for the child, the maximum learning period is wasted, both at home and in the basic schools, the majority of which are underfunded and under-equipped, and often function only as child drop-off places during working hours.
As a result, most children enter primary school unprepared; many never catch up. This results in underachievers who “float” from class to class until they leave school frustrated, unmotivated, at-risk, ripe for gang involvement, and careless about their lives. and that of others.
But here is an unknown fact that can upset this result:
All children can learn to read at the age of six, except in abnormal health conditions. They can also count to the level of simple arithmetic, write simple sentences of their own composition, and tell a story in their own words. They can also learn to treat each other kindly and learn a whole range of concepts and vocabulary through play.
It’s not fantasy. This is a proven fact that has already been demonstrated in Jamaica and simply needs to be replicated.
This results in a very productive passage through the next stage of primary school (particularly if obsolete learnings are removed from the curriculum), high school, and technical or higher education (more of that anon); significantly, the frustration, desperation and criminal results for those who sit at the back of the classroom learning nothing for years will cease to exist.
The impact of proper care in the earlier period, from birth to two and three years, has not yet been demonstrated in Jamaica; but you don’t have to look far to see its value.
THE FINNISH SYSTEM
The Finnish system starts soon after birth and this country is ranked among the best, if not the first, among the best educational systems in the world. For working mothers who cannot care for their infants themselves, infants are cared for during the day by highly trained, well paid and respected caregivers.
This area should be added to Orlando Patterson’s report on education. The cost will be high, but compared to the growing social and economic costs of police, ZOSOs, community resistance, crime and lack of productivity, the cost of infant care pales in comparison to its importance.
During this first stage of development of the human brain and psyche, neglect is replaced by physical and emotional care, as well as proper nutrition and mental stimulation. It is then followed at the age of three by the form of enlightened early education mentioned above.
The only way to solve currently seemingly insoluble social problems is to nurture a new generation, followed by other socialized generations with an informed start in life.
How can this “miracle” be achieved so that by the age of three, all children pass into a learning environment with play, happy socialization and an abundance of learning opportunities, and at age six to seven, enter primary school, read and learn effortlessly?
How to train teachers to achieve this level of performance in basic schools? It is done.
This requires the careful selection of untrained but emotionally ready candidates to work with highly qualified and motivated teacher educators, and to be supervised in action, using a well-known international curriculum slightly modified to meet our budget; in addition, accept the obligation to receive additional continuing education in each school on a weekly basis. Expensive equipment is reproduced using homemade materials.
This should not be a prerequisite, but ideally participation in the infant care phase can reasonably be sought in the UK as a remedy; the UK could provide this in kind, not necessarily cash, by providing childcare professionals for a period of at least five years, while training Jamaicans in the skills to replace them.
The next steps in education can be tackled once the vital first milestone from birth to age six is in place. For example, by continuing to benchmark ourselves against proven examples, we can look to Germany’s recognized achievements in technical and vocational education and make the adaptations that suit us.
Our society is begging to see a reversal of the cycle of failure and crime. There is only one place to start, and that is to ensure that today’s child receives the environment from birth to become the self-expressing and productive citizen of tomorrow.
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