Hard work, parental responsibility and the community in education

Louis E A Moyston, PhD

Sunday, September 16, 2018

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This time of the year I really enjoy reading the newspaper revelation of students and parents whose hard work resulted in academic excellence. These exposés are eye-openers to things that work for educational success. Sometimes students speak about their religious background and the associated discipline; others speak of the hard work and the sacrifices; and there are also the reflections of themes on parents with a high level of educational literacy.

The recent controversy resulting from the ruling at Calabar High School regarding no automatic promotion to fifth form, and that students must have an average grade of 60 per cent to move on, caught my attention. Without adequate information this proposition sparked a fiery debate condemning what appeared to be an unnecessarily harsh and too drastic action against the students. Listening to a representative of the high school on the television providing further details, I have a basic agreement with the actions.

There are some students who have no clue why they go to school; and also parents with no knowledge of the educational literacy that should empower them to offer proper guidance to their children going to school. We know very well that it takes one bad apple to spoil the rest, but this issue has to do with youngsters with behavioural issues tied to their poor educational attainment.

I also agree that the school should not have waited that long to deal with the matter, but it is also a case in which parents either refuse or are incapable of responding to the series of recommendations made by the school. One thing is clear: The community has an important role in contributing to great improvements in the attitude of parents and students towards education.

There is the need to begin a nationwide campaign and programme in educational literacy. There are those parents from different backgrounds who have a lack of understanding of this idea, while others combine this knowledge with their academic achievements, thereby providing the kind of cultural setting conducive to high achievement.

I will offer the cases of two families and their road to excellence in academic performance at the preparatory and high school levels in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams. The first case is that of a worker in a school cafeteria and her granddaughter; and the other, a mother of mathematics and computer orientation in a nuclear family setting with her two sons.

J G, a cafeteria worker who had reasonably high successes with her daughters who graduated from high school, began to take care of her granddaughter at an early age. At age 6 the little one announced to her grandmother that she wanted to go straight to Campion College without going to preparatory or primary school, and then she wanted to move straight to The University of the West Indies to study medicine. After the grandmother explained the process she worked on her Grade Six Achievement Test preparation and she was placed at Immaculate Conception High School. In the most recent exams she sat 10 subjects at the CSEC level and passed all, with eight distinctions. She is on her way under the guidance of her grandmother to medical school to study pathology.

There is the case of two sons of “Mr Robbie” and “Mrs B”. From time to time I have had discussions with Mrs B on matters concerning educational literacy and about her sons in schools and her plans for them. This mother has a deep understanding of educational literacy and I have no doubt that her high achievement in mathematics and the computer sciences have been proven as assets in her leadership and astute academic planning with her sons in their recent excellent achievements in the CSEC examinations. Her 10-year-old attends a St Andrew preparatory school and sat theatre arts in the recent CSEC papers. As his mother predicted, he passed with distinction. Her 14-year-old is a student at Ardenne High School who sat CSEC mathematics and was successful, with a straight 'A' profile distinction.

In one case the young student was highly motivated from age six and was guided by her grandmother who runs a strict but compassionate regime at home. In the other cases the cultural setting and the high level of educational level contributed to the immense academic excellence.

There are homes with both the cultural and educational deficiencies that produce many students who excel, but there is a grave problem in education that must be dealt with. The school is not just a place to which parents send their children because education is compulsory at that certain age. The reality is that there are some students who go to school to waste time and give trouble. It is necessary for the community to play an important role in treating these deficiencies. In some communities students do not even have the space to do homework; they do not have the kind of resources and cultural setting conducive to proper educational support.

It is going to take 'the village' to make an important contribution to provide a centre for cultural and behavioural enrichment for students across the country. The problems in the homes and family are compounded by new values and attitudes influenced by the emergence of mass culture, new social and psychological theories, and also some aspects of the new technical revolutions. There is also that persistent language problem. Overall, the problems with the youth and education are complex.

It is my opinion that we may very well have to convert a few of the high schools into military-type institutions to deal with some of the problems of disorder and indiscipline that threaten the smooth and effective operations of our schools.

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