By Vakeesha John
What makes a child think that he/she cannot achieve excellence unless the child attends a particular school? How is it that these students, even before starting their journeys at certain schools, already believe that they are not the best, do not have the best teachers and may not be able to add to national development once they attend schools that are not perceived to be top schools?
It is quite interesting that we fight to break stereotypes while perpetuating them. Why are you fighting for a student because he/she is not at the “best” school? To empower a child and enforce the thought that their teachers are the best and that their schools are the best may actually bridge the gap between the “good” and “not-so-good” schools. Our culture often focuses on competition instead of empowerment. Fighting for children because they are not given the best teachers or because they are not at the best school is a declaration that the reality of the stereotype is quite accurate. But are they? These fights exist because of competitions in education, and the truth is, there should never be competition. What causes much of the existing competition is the great academic calculators; the big-bad examinations administered by CXC. Even the results of these examinations are misleading. (We would discuss further.)
Is excellence limited?
The problem is the lens through which we view success, education and excellence. Is success only gained through academic pursuits? Does education simply refer to academics? Does the academic calculator even give a “fair display/statement” of excellence? The answer to all three questions is no. If our society can shift its focus on education both psychologically and emotionally, we would have less “losers” and more winners. If our heads of education can create a shift in our education system from a more academic-centred approach to a more holistic (and even relaxed) approach, valuing the arts and creative studies, sports and technical areas, placing less effort on examining students in these areas, more learning will actually take place. More effort should be invested into building entrepreneurs, developing creative skills of our children and preparing sportsmen and women for their platforms by offering suitable educational packages with a well-tailored curriculum.
With a fun-based learning environment, students are more inclined to dedicate themselves to their work and will be ready to contribute to society as they are now more empowered to do so. It is time we advance education to honing skills, developing characters and not simply learning academics. This places less strain on students to compete as they now view themselves as simply different with varying paths. This will save more of our children since too many children drop out at form one level all because the system has failed them and they are almost never “successful enough” to reach to form 4 where they are able to choose subjects. No, they are not dunce. No, they are not just miserable. No, they are not “good for nothings”. They are simply different and what they are “good for” is not available within the existing system.
Academic calculator measures passes, not success
To measure excellence, one must consider the starting point, the process and the end point. Any school that records high pass rates should be commended, as this is no easy task, regardless of how “bright” the students are. It takes hard work and dedication of teachers, parents and students. However, low pass rates do no not mean that hard work and dedication were not invested. Think about it, a child enters a secondary school unable to read at Form 1 level or to or even write well. This may be due to having learning disorders that are not catered to in our system. What it leaves is a child who teachers and parents have to work tirelessly with so as to achieve success. This child graduates with at least five CSEC subjects, in a system that overlooked many key issues. Isn’t this success? When a secondary school that received 90 students, half of them reading at Grade 4 level (or below) records pass rates of 50% and above, isn’t that success? Giving rewards for children who have improved is great but focusing less on the numbers put out by CXC will be greater. Open your eyes to excellence beyond numbers.
Extra-curricular activities play a huge role in a school’s success
What makes people think that unless a school hits in the top 10 for CSEC, the school is not excellent? These schools compete and perform excellently in Football, steel pan, pageants, athletics, drama, public speaking, etc. Some of the schools are actually undefeated in certain areas. Isn’t that excellence? The issue is, as mentioned earlier, we do not place value on these things. When do we refer to a school as a “top school” because it remains number one at Inter-School Sports? The argument will be that to be good in sports is not enough. This argument is raised at every point in celebrating non-academic success and it is not fair! Schools should celebrate any aspect of success. If the argument persists, well, the same goes for academics so we should stop determining the status of a school based on one aspect of excellence period.
Celebrating your school’s success can actually breed more success
Often times, the power of celebrations and rewards is overlooked. Psychologically, people appreciate things more when there is a culture of celebration and rewards. If a student enters a school that brags on every little success, boosts teachers instead of tearing them down and inspires students to crave celebration, excellence will be the trademark. Stop focusing on comparing the way teachers and past students celebrate their own schools and invest more energy in celebrating yours. The energy will be contagious and the message will be clear. Boost rather than tear. Encourage rather than compare!
The day excellence is viewed as a multidimensional abstract instead of a one-way street; many more schools will start to celebrate. The day we realize that the academic success of one school should not be measured against another, more schools will be celebrated. The day we realize that greater grades do not equate to less effort, more “good teachers” will be appreciated.
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