Careers & Education

Slow progress on abolishing shift system

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education senior reporter douglasl@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 12, 2012    

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THE number of schools operating on the shift system will be reduced slightly in the new academic year.

At least one high school is to be do away with the system while another will begin to gradually phase it out.

Marcus Garvey Technical High in St Ann will no longer operate on shift as a new campus has been built for the lower school while Glengoffe High in St Catherine will not have a grade seven intake as a first step to phasing out the shift system there.

This was disclosed by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Grace McLean, who also said a number of primary and all-age schools had been earmarked to be taken off the shift system.

"There are quite a few primary schools that will not have a grade one on shift as we try to see how we can regularise them," she told Career & Education on Thursday.

She said there would be more details about the changes in the days ahead.

Marcus Garvey and Glengoffe High were two of the four institutions identified as failing schools by former Prime Minister and Minister of Education Andrew Holness last year.

Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of Education's School Profiles for 2010-11, there were 110 schools running on shift — 25 primary schools, nine all-age, 32 primary and junior high, 39 secondary, and Marcus Garvey as the lone technical school.

The parish with the most schools on the shift system was St Catherine with 29, more than twice the number of any other parish.

St Catherine was followed by Clarendon with 12 schools on shift, St Andrew with 11, St Ann 10, Manchester eight, St James, Westmoreland, and St Elizabeth with six each, St Mary five, Portland and Trelawny four each, Hanover three and Kingston, and St Thomas with only two schools each on shift.

There were five schools listed as having an extended day. These are Campion College and Meadowbrook High in St Andrew; Morant Bay High in St Thomas, Trinity Primary in St Mary and Kellits High in Clarendon.

At a school with an extended day, the school day is staggered for different groups of students. At Campion College, for example, half of the students are required to get to school at 7:30 am, with the other half arriving at 8:30 am. The first set of students leave school an hour before the second set.

Over the years, many educators have cited the shift system as one of the reasons for the underperformance of students in Jamaica's education system.

Commenting on the shift system principal of one such school, Spanish Town High Clayton Hall called for all stakeholders to make a concerted effort to abolish it.

He said the shift system contributes to Jamaica being divided into educated and non-educated classes.

"Have you noticed that the students who are less likely to be independent learners are sent to the high schools where they are given less contact time based on the shift system? We must rectify this or we are going to continue to have two Jamaicas," Hall told the Career & Education.

Students at shift schools have about four and a half hours of contact time per day, compared with five and a half hours at whole day schools.

Hall, who takes over as president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association later this month, said it is difficult to foster the holistic development of students in areas such as sports and the arts in shift schools.

"At our school, we have a very good band, but it is under severe pressure because there is no point in the school day that the band can adequately rehearse," he said.

The shift system also has implications for transportation and security, with some children reaching home at nights because school finishes at 5:00 pm, Hall noted.

"The shift system was introduced to facilitate children attending schools when we had a significant shortage of spaces. The expressed intention at the time was that it was a stop-gap mechanism. I understand there can be no waving of a wand to solve this problem (but) it is high time for us to deliver on this matter," he said.

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