Jamaica’s education system is at a critical juncture. Since gaining political independence in 1962, the island has suffered from corruption, a lack of transparency and accountability across all sectors. At the same time the society has experimented with numerous educational policies and reform programmes, however, we have failed to achieve equity for our students with regards to outcomes.
In February of 2004, then Prime Minister, PJ Patterson appointed a 14 member task force on educational reform to modernize the island’s education system. The Educational System Transformation Programme (ESTP) emerged in response to the assessment of the performance of Jamaica’s education sector. While we must commend the tremendous work of the Task Force, especially, with regards to the ground breaking recommendations many of which are in place, the society needs to demand more accountability in the area of school leadership and management.
Recently, Professor Paul Miller, reader in education at Brunel University in the United Kingdom, questioned the corrupt promotion policies which continue to hurt Jamaica’s education system.
Professor Miller stated “those persons more likely to get promoted were those who were in favour with a school’s administration and local education ministry officials”.
While corruption policies practices are not unique to Jamaica or to the education sector, we should be very concerned and ask ourselves if as a country we can continue to embrace such a culture to the detriment of our human capital as well as to Jamaica’s development.
Successive governments over the years have been tardy to root out corrupt promotion policies in the island’s education system. Disturbingly, such practices have now become embedded in the cultural DNA of the Jamaican society. The corrupt promotion policies does not rest solely at the level of principalship, it extends itself to middle management at all schools, where the appointment of senior teachers is done at the whim and fancy of principals, many of whom do not have the best interest of education or their students at heart. To add insult to injury, many principals who are underachievers continue to have extensions given to them by the education ministry even as they reach the age of retirement. This practice ought to cease with immediate effect. We cannot afford as a society to continue to reward poor leadership.
We have replaced a culture of meritocracy to one of connectedness. Sadly, in the process we have destroyed the innovation and creativity among a sizeable percentage of teachers. We must at all times remember that we preparing students for their future, not our past.
We have allowed the influence of politics to hijack the teaching and learning process, which has resulted in many of our school underperforming as is documented by the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) report of 2014. The NEI report stated that more than (60%) sixty per cent of the country, s primary and secondary schools are failing in their education delivery to students.
As a society we are not data driven. Many schools have ignored the recommendations of the NEI report. We no longer hold principals accountable. In too many instances our schools are operated like private business for the well being of the principals and a selected highly favoured cohort of middle management. Who cares about the welfare of our children?
Education is often referred to as the catalyst of change, however, in a corrupt environment; change is often slow and leads to frustration among the stakeholders. A school is more than a place to impart knowledge. Schools are channels of values and attitudes which are necessary for the social integration and cohesiveness in the society.
The country will continue to hemorrhage, as long as we embrace principal prejudice and turn a blind eye to corrupt practices. Let us reject the old style of doing things. The world is moving ahead and shunning corruption. It cannot be business as per usual. Jamaica at a time like this require bold leadership, not only at the national level, but at all levels throughout the society. We need and should demand men and women of impeccable character to lead our children. Our schools need to engage their communities in more outreach programmes in order to have a more inclusive approach to education. Let us be courageous and remove politics and indicators of affiliation from school board appointments as this contributes to corrupt promotion policies. We need to empower our school boards to stand up to those principals who are corrupt and who continue to divide our schools. The education ministry needs to show leadership in this regard and do what is right and put in place transformational leaders in our schools. The society needs to be more proactive and demand more transparency and accountability within the education sector.
In the words of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow.
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