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Where Do We Go Now? Reflecting on The Reform of Jamaica Education, 2021 Report

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

OPINION

JUDY VILLENEUVE-DYCE

published 1/23/2022


The Jamaican Education Transformation Commission recently released The Reform of Jamaican Education, 2021 report detailing the current state of education in Jamaica. I am heartened by the depth of reflection and transparency of this much anticipated report's evaluation and conclusions.


Globally, governments are tackling the devastation, to the whole child, that was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Redirecting a focus to students' mental health results in, unfortunately, a substantial increase in learning loss. However, it is a critical step to addressing student depression and anxiety that adversely impacts whether a child is psychologically equipped to learn, following the destabilizing health crisis. Teachers are also seeing an uptick of unruly behavior in the classroom and a general lack of student interest to learn. Researchers believe this is caused by students' growing access to games and social media during the pandemic's two-year social isolation, among other factors. While all of these issues impact the delay of well intentioned governments' education trajectories world-wide for their students, these harsh realities served to even further exacerbate the already vastly under resourced and poorly performing education system in Jamaica.


As an education policy professional working in the largest and most socio-economically, academic ability and culturally diverse public school system in the world, the NYC Department of Education, my experience is that education policy issues are rarely due to an inability to identify "problems" because people freely vocalize their dissatisfaction. Rather the real hurdle to systemic education policy improvements is typically the need for education leadership professionals imbued with the Program Management skills necessary to use the quantitative data for designing qualitative data collection interventions from the affected stakeholders, in order to conceptualize, codify, design and implement effective strategic solutions. Each step encompasses more complexity than I will elaborate on in this article but, I want to emphasize that each step is essential, mutually dependent and requires a community focused collaborative approach that incorporates all stakeholder groups, such as students, families, educators, school leaders, churches, administrators, business owners, diaspora partners, dignitaries and more.


"Jamaica's education system was created to ensure the role Jamaicans play would reinforce England's preferential position."


Education policy is best understood from an aerial view. Take a moment to think of yourself as the master of the world. You are looking down at all of the world below, at each person in every country and all the natural resources and land is at your fingertips, to do with as you please. It is a very powerful position and you have the ability to either equitably distribute land, resources and opportunities to all people or you can have favorites. Colonialism, the legacy of England on Jamaica's very existence and specifically its' education system, had such awesome power as I am describing and they favored themselves. So, under colonial rule, Jamaica's education system was created to ensure the role Jamaicans play would reinforce England's preferential position. This amounted to an inequitable distribution of access to land, natural resources and opportunities to colonial rulers, their families and dependents at the expense of Jamaicans.


Education, we can agree, falls under the category of "opportunities" because learning paves the way to the station in life you are equipped to hold. So, while people of English decent sent their children back to England where they had the opportunity to receive an education that would prepare them for managing their lands, and natural resources, the education Jamaicans received was initially limited to agricultural studies, domestic work, obedience to English authority and God-fearing subordination. As the English began to leave Jamaica, they left a legacy of class and color division in every aspect of society including the schools system. These were ideal goals for post slave nations from a colonial needs-analysis. However, once Jamaica was emancipated, one would hope that a re-evaluation of the needs of our people would be conducted and implemented to the benefit of Jamaicans.


To the chagrin of Jamaica, many if not all of the structural inequities are sustained by its own nationals, within today's educational structure, to the detriment of Jamaican students and the society at large. The most harmful effects of colonialism in education isn't the colonial past per se, but the attachment post colonial nations have to the only structure they respect for reasons intrinsically attributed to their colonial education of obedience and subordination. Let us now, through the modern lens of clarity and knowledge gained through The Reform of Jamaican Education, 2021 report, begin a new chapter in the book of Jamaican history that will move education forward and our children upward. I stand beside every individual, organization and administration that is committed to doing the hard work necessary to uplift our children so that they thrive.

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Articles will follow concerning the titles below which will elaborate on ideas about ways that may be considered on how to move education forward in Jamaica.

  • Dismantle Past Colonial Educational Structure and Euro-Traditional Curriculum

  • Establish a Coalition of Stakeholders to Reimagine Education in Jamaica for Jamaicans for Continued Growth and Improvement of the Education System

  • Re-direct Student Education to Develop Their Personal Abilities and Individual Creativity

  • Make Major Technological Infrastructure Improvements to Increase Online Learning Opportunities and to Advance Technology Skills


Judy Villeneuve-Dyce is the Chief Financial Officer at Education Solutions International, a non-profit Foundation established in January 2022 in New York City. ESI raises money through partnerships with likeminded individuals, educators, and organizations to facilitate access, by Caribbean students, teachers, administrators and schools, to educational opportunities, programs, scholarships and trainings, through critical financial support ESI obtains through donations, low cost training, professional consultation services and affordable membership packages. Mrs. Villeneuve-Dyce also serves as Director of Policy and Engagement in NYC where she has held several executive leadership positions in Policy, Compliance and Operations. Her family hails from Jamaica and Belize. She is married and they have two daughters.


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