GSAT woes and the education connundrum

So results of the GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) were revealed this past Thursday and amongst jubilation, were tears of parents, not children.


In Jamaica, all education is not created equaland there are many who felt cheated and robbed as their child was told that he/she would be shipped away to a “non-traditional high school”. When will parents take responsibility for their child’s education. It’s not enough to buy a book and send the child to a great preparatory school and then throw money at their “traditional high school”. It’s also selfish to hope that your child goes to a “good school” while many children fall through the cracks of an inherently flawed education system.


Professor M. Samms-Vaughn had tried with the previous education minister (Hon Andrew Holness) to revolutionalise and standardise early childhood education by providing and updating requirements for the opening of a basic school and for the hiring of early education practitioners.


Looking at the recent GSAT results, “Traditional” high schools get the cream of the crop: the already driven and highly intelligent, most times upper middle class, preparatory (private school) graduates. These parents tend to be more involved in their child’s education and have pockets lined and ready to fund high school fund raisers aimed at bettering high school resources. They tend to UNDERSTAND the need for an education and are willing to fund that, heavily and privately.


Juxtaposed with this is “the rest” who have been placed in “non-traditional” schools.

“the rest” comes from inner cities where violence, domestic abuse and early sexual exposure at the norm. “the rest” has parents who are themselves uneducated and who are too busy thinking about the next meal or the next dance to care about homework that needs to be done. “the rest” lack the resources to identify behavioural issues, emotional issues and learning issues that stunt learning and let’s not forget that the “the rest” have no resources to address these issues even if they are identified.


Even a teacher with the best of degrees and the best of intentions cannot perform miracles when confronted with 30 grade seven students all reading at a grade 2 level, whose parents remain apathetic and impoverished. They don’t have the money to buy the barbeque tickets to help to build the vocational library. They don’t have the money to fund occupational therapy, speech therapy or even extra reading classes. They can’t afford the psychologist and grief counselor needed to help their children through the terror of violence exposure and early sexual initiation. And yet, you as parents cry for your child and decry the government for placing your child at a school where the CXC grades aren’t good enough and where the grounds are a little bit more gritty.


I suggest, humbly, that we, as a society stop sitting idly by and advocate and shout for equity of education. Judge not by academic performance, but see poor school performance as a SYMPTOM of disease, either inherent to the child or in the child’s environment. Social and cultural reform is a must and each child should be provided an EQUAL opportunity to receive and education. So you child is going to school with “the rest”, be an active parent and an active participant. Stop the snobbery and selfishness; contribute of your time and finances to ensure that your child’s school provides him and OTHER children and education that will result in them being productive members of society.


Stone flung.


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