The time has come for us to adapt a bottom up policy approach in moving forward and transforming the education system. We must listen to our students more and use this to plan programmes and policies to inspire and motive our students.
Student engagement has become one of the new buzz phrases in education. Educators are always bombarded with questions about how they plan to engage their students. However, for many educators the process of engaging disconnected students becomes more challenging with each academic year.
Engaging disconnected students can be achieved by first addressing the relevance of the content being taught. We must ask ourselves whether the information being taught is relevant to what the student needs to learn. Most students by the time they reach high school or grade seven would have formed an opinion about the relevance of many things that are unrelated to learning. Students, indeed people are egocentric and what is relevant to the teacher such as curriculum is oftentimes irrelevant to them.
When a skill/concept is taught an attempt must be made to connect this to what is socially relevant to the level of the students.
Secondly, in planning our lessons we must ask ourselves whether the activity or the lesson itself evokes a sense of inquiry or curiosity. Too many teachers continue to use a teacher- centered approach. A student-centered approach encourages more enquiry. Every effort must be made to ensure that all lessons appeal to the sense of natural curiosity. It is well known fact that lessons that are centered around real world themes tend to evoke the natural curiosity in all students.
Last but by no means least, educators must ensure that all students can indeed connect with their lesson. In other words the lesson must be meaningful in a personal way to all students.
Engaging disconnected students, especially our boys is indeed very challenging especially since many boys who display school smarts are often ridiculed as effeminate by peers and even adults in areas where academic excellence by males is typically devalued.
Our students need to see a clear pathway regarding where acquiring an education will put them. We need to remove education from inside the four walls of the classroom and make it more practical if we hope to engage our disconnected students. Many of students who are not academically inclined would benefit more from an apprenticeship system or sorts whereby they are paired with a mentor in their practical area of choice. This could involve weekly field trips to the mentor’s place of work to see the real world instead of being stuck in a classroom five days per week. We need to institute a radical approach in transforming Jamaica’s education system in order to meet the needs of our students and prepare them for their future.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.