Sat | Dec 14, 2019

A student’s perspective on high school pairing

Published:Friday | July 19, 2019 | 12:35 AMDavid Salmon/Contributor
Students from Ardenne High engage in an animated discussion.
Haile Selassie High school drummers perform during a ceremony at the school.
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I welcome the recent proposal from the Ministry of Education to begin the process of twinning high schools in Jamaica. It is a position that I have been positing for some time as I believe that linking schools at different levels of academic achievement will be an effective strategy in erasing the disparity in our education system.

My interactions with the different high schools across the island, through my involvement in the National Secondary Students’ Council and the Jamaica Prefects’ Association, have made me come to the conclusion that in order to achieve a transformation in our education system, we must focus on the development of schools across the country.

I have often found that students from newly established and up-and-coming institutions demonstrate the same, if not a greater capacity for self-improvement as those from other schools. However, students who attend older institutions benefit from a larger reservoir of social and cultural capital. Therefore, twinning institutions is the first step in correcting an obvious fault in the education system.

Facilitate Cultural Exchanges

However, what caught my attention from minister with responsibility for education Karl Samuda’s presentation last week, was the suggestion of pairing Ardenne High School with Haile Selassie High School. While this decision satisfies the need to facilitate cultural exchanges with students of different backgrounds, the geographic location of these schools may limit the transferral of knowledge that could occur. This concern may be further exacerbated in rural areas that span wider distances.

As an alternative, my proposal is for the Government to pursue the School Cluster Development Programme (SCDP). The aim of this initiative will be to organise schools according to subregional clusters.

In sections of rural Jamaica, it is common to see multiple high schools located in a similar geographical area. For example, in Clarendon there are three main areas where high schools are located. There is a northern cluster which includes Clarendon College, Edwin Allen and Claude McKay High; a central cluster which encompasses Glenmuir High, Central High and Denbigh High, and a southern cluster of schools that incorporates Kemps Hill, Vere Technical, Garvey Maceo, and the Bustamante high schools.

Arranging schools through the SCDP will go a long way in creating a greater impact on the quality of our high-school education system. The system will facilitate easier management and coordination of different schools’ activities. For example, it would be far less tedious to plan an event between Holy Trinity High School and St George’s College (both are in a central Kingston cluster) compared with Ardenne High School and Haile Selassie High School.

This proposition will not only save time but also cost of transportation, especially in rural areas. It will also encourage greater camaraderie among neighbouring schools, as this is an aspect of high school life that is often ignored.

Additionally, the SCDP should be accompanied by the creation of subregional boards that would be comprised of representatives of all the schools in the specified geographic cluster. These boards will be responsible for planning activities among the various schools, discussing common challenges faced and fostering greater academic collaboration among schools to determine best practices.

The system may also promote inter-campus curriculum development as schools can specialise in specific subjects that they are best equipped to deliver. In this regard, greater sharing of resources can take place which may minimise the resource constraints in our high schools. Eventually, schools may even contribute to a subregional development fund that can be accessed by respective schools in the geographic cluster for specified reasons. These reasons may range from the provision of additional subjects to repairing damaged infrastructure.

Therefore, with this system, schools will be responsible for each other while simultaneously improving their own standards of education provision. Implementing the SCDP will truly ensure that no high school is left behind.

David Salmon is the outgoing president of the Jamaica Prefects’ Association and deputy head boy of the Wolmer’s Boys’ School. To send feedback, he can be contacted via email at davidsalmon@live.com.