Wanted: Education for Development and Progress

I write in reference to the standard of the secondary education system in Jamaica. As a university lecturer, and former CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proificiency Examination) Law teacher, I observe that the system is dysfunctional in part because of the undue focus placed on examinations and test-based curricula, as opposed to learning. Accordingly, students in general seek qualification and certification rather than an education.

A true education entails gaining knowledge, skills or abilities through exposure to new concepts which results in a change in behaviour, perception or perspective. Unfortunately, in Jamaica, most students finish courses with the same perspective as they entered, notwithstanding their exposure to new information. Students swot information during the last moments before examinations to place just enough information in short-term memory for recall in order to pass the test.

The information is usually easily displaced from memory a few days later. This strategy is most often utilized without the basis of understanding. There is no virtue placed on learning. Students think the stress of preparing for exams at the last minute is useful for their brand of studying. There is very little utilization of time management and organizational skills. As such, plagiarism for homework and assignments is widespread.

It must be noted that the dysfunctional study habits of students are enforced by the structure of the education system. For example, the nature of external examination system lends itself to teachers feeling compelled to exclusively cater to the external examinations, rather than foster general learning. This creates a vicious cycle that undermines education.

Teachers may teach only to the test because an understanding of concepts that are not examined on the external exams is often of little comfort to teachers or students. As such, changes should be made in the curriculum and the attitude of students to develop the minds of the masses.

Ideally, students should aim to learn comprehensively, which will result in high grades and ultimately qualification. Critical analytical skills, problem-solving and conflict resolution are severely lacking in Jamaica as a result of the lack of education. The focus on doing just enough to get by leads to a lackluster, inefficient and ineffective population which is all too prevalent in Jamaica. A true education of the masses leads to the organized and structured societies of the developed world.

The dysfunction of the system manifests itself in various ways from how we drive to our murder rate. The nation will never achieve developed world status unless the population is educated.

Antonn Brown
Clarendon, Jamaica


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