A quality system for the mass education of the population is the most important requirement for national development. Our outdated education system is fundamentally flawed in the most egregious way. Unlike developed nations which strive to educate the masses in a universal and equitable manner, Jamaican policy intentionally perpetuates inequality and disparate treatment as part of the structure of the education system. The system needs to be completely overhauled to facilitate the cultural changes needed to make development possible.
The external examinations at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate levels do not include standardized curricula, aids or materials throughout the school system. As such, the substance and quality of instruction for courses depends not only on the school one attends, but also on the qualification, experience, commitment and professionalism of the individual teachers. Ironically, these examinations test the teachers just as much as the students.
Nothing undermines development more than the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). The GSAT is based on the premise that students should be weeded out to determine placement due to limited places in secondary educational institutions. This means that whether a student attends a quality school or is siphoned off to learn a trade or stay home is purposefully determined at age 11 as a matter of public policy.
The standard of the test is extraordinarily or artificially high in order to achieve this objective, yet the quality of the system to prepare the students is wholly deficient. By design, only a small percentage of our population will make it through the school system. Systematic stratification of this kind leads to negative economic, social, and psychological ramifications for the nation.
Development can only be achieved through mass education. However, this simple truth is not acknowledged or reflected in government policy initiatives. The current system is ostensibly rooted in the legacy of colonialism, slavery and plantation economics. However, it must end because it is the antithesis of what is needed for future development in a globalized economy.
The solution to the problem requires a change in philosophy, rather than introducing more standardized tests or replacing tuition fees with increased auxiliary fees. Although it sounds like a grand claim, I am convinced that the solution to all of our problems is based on a functional education system. Crime, conflict, the economy, entrepreneurship, employment, the birth rate, family structure, orderly conduct and international competitiveness are all affected by mass education or lack thereof.