By Anthony Stewart, PhD
English language is, apparently, our “mother tongue.” It is the language that we speak, read and write. Our reasonable expectation is that everyone would record a pass in this subject area. The Education Revolution should provide an enabling environment for the English language to flourish. When I think about English, two of my former teachers come to mind: Mrs. Yvette Wilson-Bentick and Mrs. Winthress Romeo. I call them the “Guardians of the Queen’s English.” I like the freedom of expression of the British parliamentary system and wonder why, if ours is patterned after theirs, it is so difficult for a motion of no confidence to be debated here.
The Education Revolution should foster a climate of freedom of expression so we can hear fishermen, teachers, lawyers, doctors, accountants and professionals and ordinary people from all walks of life making their contributions to the debate on issues of public interest. Why are our people afraid to express themselves? Over 100 years ago Ellen G. White wrote: “Every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator- individuality, power to think and to do. The men and women in whom this power is developed are those who bear responsibilities, who are leaders in enterprise, and who influence character. It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train young people to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other people’s thought.” Public debates are good and are to be encouraged. They will help us make better-informed choices.
The 2019 English A CSEC results indicate a pass rate countrywide of 76 %. This is commendable and we must thank our hardworking English teachers and students. But our expectation of 100% is not unreasonable and is attainable. To improve, students may need to be more expressive. The movement from talking to texting may not be helpful. Reading is also essential for improved performance. The activity of our very important libraries would record the progress in this area. Students need access to libraries in every community. Their operating hours must be displayed publicly. Our librarians must be valued, trained and should be among the highest paid workers. They do a very important work. Besides the library reporting publicly of their circulation, schools may require book reports among other means of assessing the sufficiency of their students’ reading.
The circulation of newspapers in each community is another indicator of reading. Therefore, schools should encourage students to subscribe to the newspapers and even to become writers. At minimum, the newspapers should be available in the school libraries. Because many of the students of the education revolution may be reading below grade level, and some may not be reading at all, provision needs to be made on the book loan scheme with appropriate books.
Sometime ago, a parent refused to pay for the scheme claiming, “My son cannot read any of those books.” Perhaps she was right. Due consideration should be given to the children of the education revolution by placing appropriate books on the book loan scheme. As it stands now, apparently they are being left out. Students are required to purchase the books for English B but many of them do not. Teachers resort to reading the texts in class but this is not very effective. Students should purchase the books so that they can be aided in developing their reasoning and analytical skills. The results for CSEC 2019 English B shows a pass rate nationwide of 66%. Less than 4% of the students wrote English B while all students are usually required to write English A.
Writing seems to have gone out of fashion, but it is an important skill that is needed. Writing a page every day or journaling is useful in helping students to express themselves on paper. Most examinations are written. Consequently, penmanship is important so that what is communicated is legible.
Some school rules are unwritten just like the British Constitution but most are written like our Constitution and have the force of law once they are agreed upon by staff, students, and PTA and published. Besides the school rules and the Constitution another piece of regulation/legislation affecting students is the Collective Agreement between the Teachers Union and Government and it is not aspirational as some purport, but has the force of law. Passing English A and English B at the CSEC level require students to speak well, read widely and write well. Everyone has the capacity to use the available resources to be proficient in all these skills. Let us do that.
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