Jamaica’s National Book List will do more Harm than Good for our Students
The teaching styles of our Jamaican teachers have always been observed, scrutinised and criticised.
Unlike our American educators, majority of our teachers have not been encouraged to write books on their classroom style methodologies that have made successes over the decades. Instead, more is being asked of them to be in the classroom and not to spend time documenting their best practices and sharing them with younger teachers who have joined the rank of the “noble profession.”
Of course teachers must raise their standard higher, for the minds of children who were in the classrooms ten years ago cannot be given the same pedagogy to these mentally overloaded technologically innate students being faced by the maturing teacher. Therefore our teachers must be given fair opportunity to do the levels of research and improve their practice by producing text books and documenting innovations that are relevant and useful to the twenty first century students.
Over the last ten years or so, our Jamaican teachers have dared to become more proactive and creative by writing books that were affordable, relevant and useful for our ever evolving students. This had brought great successes in many of our schools with proactive principals and teachers, much to the pleasure of the parents who were proud of their children’s GSAT, CSEC and CAPE results.
Finally, education was stepping in the right direction! Innovative administrations, teachers, parents and students in the progressive schools where heading on the road of success only to see an avalanche barrelling towards them. The power of creating a book list was removed.
A new and improved ‘Master Booklist’ was handed to them without a warning by the Ministry of Education! This booklist requires parents to purchase only books approved by the Ministry.
Upon investigation of the list, there were some problems:
- Prices of the replacement books in reality were higher than the original books in many of the book stores.
- The content of the books for the high achieving schools were insufficient.
- The activities were less than challenging for many of the high achieving schools.
- Students who had received the hand-me-down texts from relatives now had to by new books.
Not to say that the new books were not welcomed. The lower achieving schools that had done poorly in the recent school inspections can make use of these texts. Those struggling school administrations can make improvements on their managerial, allocation and pedagogical skills and improve their levels of all-round performance. All is not lost!
One major disappointment was that once again, the leadership of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association was placed in a reactive and not a proactive role in the discussion of the book list, for this seemed to have blindsided them. With the monthly meetings that they have had with the Education Ministry, they should have given our educators a heads up of what was to happen and not having to have them doing the “Matrix” where we are slow-motioning backwards from the hail of bullets firing at them. The JTA should have been the teachers’ body armour in the protection of their craft in publications, innovations and dissemination of information.
Some schools with very vibrant PTA’s have given the teachers the mandate to continue using the locally authored integrated texts books that would ensure continued successes for their schools. The intention of the national book list was a very good one; however, the lack of proper discussions with the majority of practioners had diseased the intended effect. It is hoped that in the future, important educational discussions will be held with actual teachers, instead of individuals with inactive and irrelevant doctoral degrees.
We all crave for the improvement of education in Jamaica.
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