I understand that the new Minister of Education, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly has expressed a desire to take on the sacred cows of our education system—the 1960 Concordat and the SEA examination. The SEA has very few friends and equality of education opportunity is something the country has been wishing to achieve for many years. Parents, however, are not fools. There is a reason that there are many schools to which they do not wish to send their children. Here are some questions:
1) If we take away placement exams, what guarantees—other than promises and declarations—would parents have as to the quality of schooling that will be available? 2) Wealthy parents will always have more choices than others. If you’re poor, talented but zoned to a school in a difficult neighbourhood, aren’t you at a disadvantage in terms of educational opportunities? ˚41Won’t wealthier neighbourhoods have better schools, as obtains in the United States? Won’t wealthy families simply leave the public school system altogether as in the United Kingdom?
3) What determines preparedness for secondary school education? Age? How does a secondary school teacher manage a classroom where half are unable to read at a Standard 3 level and a handful are ahead of the national average? What are the benefits of a situation like this?
4) Proposed solutions seem to suggest that placing bright children in currently under-performing schools would somehow improve the quality of education available for all. How does this work? Would higher performing children teach the others?
Whatever happens, we have to face the fact that there are serious deficiencies in the primary school system that we have become good at ignoring as we “move children up.” We have to face the fact that many government schools struggle with violence, neglect, a culture of mediocrity and 40 per cent pass rates at the CSEC level.
None of this will change by simply assigning “bright” children there and then declaring that things are now equal. We must not fool ourselves. Do you think we will ever have equity in education if we do not care about equity in the wider society as it relates to healthcare, financial security, housing and representation for all our citizens? It will never happen.