Letters to the Editor

Language: The great neglect of the school and curriculum

Friday, October 12, 2018

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Dear Editor,

In recent days Ronald Thwaites, Opposition spokesman on education, made an interesting entry into the current debate on the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) story. I agree with the idea from Thwaites that that the test was prepared for a curriculum that was not changed, and that the “Jamaica Creole” represents the language for Jamaican students.

The People's National Party (PNP), the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) governments and the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) have failed education in this country. There can be no change or transformation of education in Jamaica without the central role of the classroom teachers. Some of the examinations have been informed by critical thinking for years now, but there has been now improvement in test scores. Changes in examination/test framework cannot change or transform education: It is like putting the cart before the horse. The JTA has not risen to the occasion of becoming a progressive and transformative trade union. The time had come to teach English as a second language to Patois speakers.

The 2004 Task Force on Transformation of Education was more intended to be a legacy project for the Government in power than on a real mission to transform education. It lacked the rigour of research and philosophy, but most importantly the role of the classroom teacher was missing in this process. The JTA must shed and reject that “mongrel dog” utterance lasting image, and also that backward trade union behaviour a step into 21st century teacher union. I wonder if the JTA members and leadership are aware of an organisation that was known as the Jamaica Union of Teachers (JUT). They must see and study its playbook. The time had come for the JTA to play an increased role in teacher training and curriculum development. The JTA knew PEP was coming, notwithstanding the enforcing and immediacy of the project, it could have responded, demanded participation and inspiring widespread workshops on the issue. Things are done with immediate effect in Jamaica politics: one year by four: the budget and election span respectively. The only aim is to meet the narrow political objectives. It is time to tell the Ministry of Education that it is not that body that should have the function to transform education.

Where I differ with Deacon Thwaites is in the reasoning process. It is out of place to use the utterance of Peter Phillips, Leader of the Opposition on this apartheid education concept, to explore the central problem in the educational system. This is an area of perennial neglect. It is good that Mr Thwaites sees the light now. There is an abundance of scholarly work in the research centre of the Department of Education at the The University of West Indies (UWI) on this question. Under his tenure as Minister of Education I have written loads of article in The Daily Observer discussing this problem of language and education in Jamaica; and the need to give Patois/Jamaican Creole its official status. There can be no effective policy response if the language is not officially recognised. Then, Mr Thwaites did not accept that this language problem exists. The neglect by both the PNP and JLP is so gross: if you neglect the language it means, nor just abandonment of the mother tongue of the country but also its speakers, majority of the people. The politics on Jamaica is primarily about competition and scoring points. I hope the Opposition will meet with the Government to arrange the authoritative approval of the Jamaican Creole/Patois as an official language; and to develop an effective approach to teach English as a second language to Patois speakers as the boldest move to transform education in Jamaica.

Louis E A Moyston, PhD


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