These young principals walked into the classrooms at their schools with big ideas. They were not satisfied with just taking on the mandate of educating the nation’s children. They wanted change – in attitude towards education. They wanted change towards the ruinous stero-type of males being underachievers.
But there are barriers.
Revamp male education
Clayton Hall, 35, principal of Spanish Town High School:
“For me, my primary focus would have been to dispel the notion that males are underachievers in education. I was convinced then and, even more convinced now that they learn differently and that they learn at a different pace but if given the required situation, they will be equal achievers. We need to lift the educational attainment of males.
“The greatest barrier to that is actually male perception because our males are erroneously socialised into believing that it is fashionable to be uneducated. Much of the things that say man or macho are anti-education. Also, existing notions of class control and acceptable classroom behaviour run anathema to male educational development.
“What we need is greater documentation of participant research. More documentation of instances where new modes of operation have been tried in the classroom and their successes documented. There is a very low volume of documentation of best practices; especially of classroom activities. These workable concepts will get large-scale buy-in. Any change in education must begin in the teachers’ colleges. How we approach male education has to be totally revamped. What we have not realised is that all our prime ministers, save for the lone female, had single-sex high-school education.”
Gregory King, 33, principal of Chandlers’ Pen Primary & Junior High, Clarendon:
Aimed to make every child self-aware. “By that I mean, not be gullible, but to question things with the intention for positive change. I’ve had personal experiences where I had questions lingering in my mind, but because of how I was raised, I had no choice but to accept certain things. This has somehow delayed my sojourn to success and I think that if I was able to question those things, I might have been in a different field today.”
The culture of the society poses the greatest challenge, however. “For me, we are not self-reliant. The adults are gullible in some ways; meaning that they accept a lot of things without even knowing the reason for such things. For example, some of them can’t find a job and their idea of income is getting employed rather than creating the means of employment. Another thing is that they are highly resistant to change.”
He said a child with an inquisitive mind will keep enquiring and the more they enquire the more, they will discover. “We need to remove the limitations we have placed on ourselves and our children.”
Focus on what works
Norman Allen, 38, principal of Bois Content All-Age School, St Catherine:
“I hoped to change the attitude of students to learning and the attitude of our teachers towards the understanding of how children really learn. We have to understand as educators that not all children learn in the same way. And if we are going to build a quality society, then we must do the necessary research and necessary investigation to determine what it will take to get our students learning at their highest level. We need to get children to focus on what they really want. We have a way of deciding for them what it is that they want and never really asking them what they want.
“Resources are the greatest barriers we face because we have to understand that these children were born in a different age and era and what worked for us won’t necessarily work for them.
“We are in a technological age and we can’t hide from it. We need to provide the children with necessary resources that they need to be all that they can be. The society needs to take a new approach to how our children are educated. The parents need to understand that they need to play a greater role in their children’s education.
Wayne Mullings, 34, principal of Austin Primary School in Myersville, St Elizabeth
I wanted to contribute to education. I had a wonderful history teacher, Mr Evan Latty from STETHS. He was my mentor and was the person who influenced me to enter teaching because I wanted to be a lawyer but he thought I should go into teaching which I did. I want to help others to find their calling just as my teacher helped me.
I think over time, the level of indiscipline in the classroom has evolved, so I’m not getting the quality students I had when I started teaching and so I find a lot of the time that should be spent imparting knowledge/content is being spent addressing indiscipline.
It’s a three-pronged approach. We need greater collaboration from parents. The discipline really starts at home. If parents play a greater role in their child’s socicultural upbringing then we find that the level of indiscipline we are exposed to in the classroom would be substantially reduced which would allow the teachers to mould the young minds. The other approach is that children on a whole ought to consider education a greater priority.
Educate for life
Michelle Robinson, principal of Mountain View Primary School:
For example, had the sense that education was undervalued and her mission was transformation.
“The way we view education, I think for most persons, it is something we just do.” That is why, she said, “our students are so mechanical. We are not training them to apply knowledge. We seem to want them to regurgitate what they have been taught.”
But she suggested, “Each person must make education a part of our essence, who we are, so that we can grow and develop.”
Robinson sees the education system as the basic barrier to change as it is merely geared towards manufacturing students. “The students sit exams, pass exams and we send them out into the world. It is not a place where we are educating students so that they can become better persons, rather it is about passing exams so you can go out and get a job. It is robotic.
“And because we are manufacturing students to pass these exams, those students who learn differently are left out.”
Her solution: People in the system who recognise the need to change how education is viewed should identify the change needed. “It sounds simplistic but this is basically what we need to do.”