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Showing posts from October, 2013

Transferring “successful models” within and/outside a system

More than a few years ago, at the height of the development of the so-called “Asian Tigers” (Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan), their models of development were the envy of the developing world and evidence held up by the World Bank and others of like ilk of the success of neoliberal policies. A number of commentators in some developing countries wondered aloud why their countries could not or would not imitate these countries’ strategies for success. The economic success of these “Asian Tigers” is still a source of wonder among many developing countries.
Today, the education systems of Finland and South Korea, among a few others, have been given kudos for their high performance. Countries in the developed and developing worlds are queuing to get the “formula” so as to replicate the success of these countries’ educational systems. Locally, Ardenne High school has topped the region in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) in 2013. The Minister of Education is …

Bullying in schools – Members of Staff as Perpetrators

Much research has been done on bullying in schools. This research has mainly focused on students as perpetrators of bullying against each other. Some research, however, has also been done on bullying in organisations. Definitions of bullying focus on the actions and intent of the bully or bullies which are always negative. Definitions also focus on the repetitive nature of the negative actions perpetrated by the bully or bullies on their victims. The definitions of bullying also emphasise that bullying can be direct such as physical assault on the victims but it can also be indirect such as the spread of gossip.
Bullying is a form of intimidation of others by those who possess various types of “power”. This could be power in the form of physical strength; it may be power in the form of the possession of resources whether money, desirable group affiliations or any other desired resource. Acts of bullying are perpetrated for a number of reasons, some incomprehensible. But, oftentimes, th…


It is no secret that many of the leaders/managers of schools and other public sector agencies have gained their positions, either because of their years of service to the school/organisation or because of other factors that have nothing to do with their prowess at leadership/management/teaching. Like many other persons occupying top positions in the public service, they see their accession to senior positions as their just reward for their long service to the organisation. According to one such leader, having now reached the top of his organisation, it was now his time to relax. The idea that managers should actively lead the organisation towards achieving its goals was foreign to him. But then again, he was "leading" a public sector organisation in the Caribbean. So, what goals are we talking about? This person was aghast when I suggested that being at the top of the organisation required more than a presence. He was adamant that he had paid his dues so it was his time to s…


A teacher of Mathematics once told me that if I could add, subtract, divide and multiply, I could master Mathematics because these skills were the foundation of Mathematics. Well, I can add, subtract, divide and multiply, quite well, as a matter of fact. But I wouldn’t say I mastered Mathematics.
My memories of Math classes are not great, but they do not leave me depressed. One of my Math classes in third form stands out in my memory to this day. It is the only one that holds a position of prominence in my mind. The teacher was quite pleasant. I remember her sitting at her desk for most of the class, waiting for us to bring our work to her for correction after she had “taught” us the fundamentals of whatever topic was introduced. (Sitting is not a bad thing to do. I like the idea of having a chair at the ready in my classroom so I can rest my weary legs, if I choose to).
So, back to my third form Math class. I can still see a “stick man”, standing at the top of an incline. Our job as s…

Performance in action: the teacher as guide

Performance as it relates to tasks in an organizational setting may be defined as effort exerted by workers in the organisation to achieve particular goals set by the organisation. Performance is something that the government of Jamaica wants to maximize. If you visit the website of the Cabinet Office, for example, you will see strategies outlined in documents such as Public Sector Transformation, Public Sector Modernisation as well as Performance Management and Evaluation programmes. The strategies outlined in these documents signal the government’s aim to raise the level of performance in the public sector.
Among organisations targeted are schools and the government is urging them to improve their performance citing low returns on its investment in education as the reason for its concern with school improvement. And, with the government creating the National Education Inspectorate (NEI), it is indicative of its expectations of the education system. The NEI has a mandate to review the…

Honesty is the best policy, is that so?

The word honesty denotes truthfulness, integrity – positive, admirable values. Should this value always be a guiding principle in our lives? A student, several years ago, in responding to the essay topic: Honesty is the best policy, opined that honesty is not always the best policy. She illustrated her answer with the example of examinations. According to her, one will find herself/himself in situations when one has to cheat. If passing an examination well meant that one would get into the best schools, and getting into the best schools would determine one’s successful future, then it would be all right to cheat. She did not examine the consequences that one would likely face if caught. The potential benefit of cheating, to her, far exceeded the costs.
I was reminded of this incident recently when a prominent high school that has been going through a rebuilding phase was in the news, not for the improvements it had made within the environment of the school, not for the successes it had…

Educational Performance in context: the experience of one developing country

In Jamaica, the issue of performance of students across the system up to grade eleven is cause for concern. A number of tests administered at various points at the primary and secondary levels are used as one of the measures of the performance of schools in the education system.
Many students who enter primary school are found to be unprepared for the primary school curriculum as a result of their performance on the Grade One Individual Learning Profile. According to the Jamaica Education Statistics 2012/2013, this assessment tool “is used to measure the level ofstudents' academic progress and their social readiness for primary school”. The students are assessed in reading, number concepts, oral language, writing and drawing. Their social readiness is assessed by observing their interactions in the classroom. However, according to the Minister of Education, The Honourable Reverend Ronald G. Thwaites (2013) in his presentation , A Call to Action, in the Sectoral debate in Parliament…

Efficiency, Effectiveness and Economy in the Education system: Impact on Performance

Leaders of governments around the world have the issue of performance at the top of their political agendas, at least as part of their rhetoric. In order to achieve this performance, they have charged public sector agencies with the responsibility of carrying out their duties with “efficiency, effectiveness and economy”, borrowing from the literature on Public Management. Now these three words may only be ‘buzz' words in many, if not most, systems in the developing countries. However, I think if these concepts are applied in the contexts in which we work to the tasks to which we are assigned, much can be achieved.
Simply put, the words refer to the expectations in terms of performance that governments envision their systems to achieve. I have interpreted these words as used in the literature on Public Administration/Public Management in the following way. First, “efficiency” means that in this period of economic hardship public bodies should try to achieve more output from fewer i…

Every child can learn, that's the belief

The Caribbean Heads of Government in 1997 unveiled a profile of the ideal Caribbean person that they had devised. This ideal Caribbean person will be created as a result of his/her ability to learn. She/he must learn to live together, learn to be, learn to do and learn to learn ( Dr. Didacus Jules (2010), Registrar of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) in his post, Rethinking Education in the Caribbean on the CXC blog shared this insight with us while he pondered the way forward for education in the Caribbean. This is a real concern since, generally, the output from the education systems in the region is considered to be unsatisfactory.

I will be commenting on the issue of learning here. What is learning and how do we learn? Learning involves the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes for a purpose. It is an ongoing process. And, how do we learn? Educationists tell us that we have different learning styles - visual, kinesthetic a…

Is Educational Research Really Useful?

What is educational research?

First, every type of research has the potential to shed light on issues in society. But, today, we are focusing on educational research. 

I have chosen to define educational research as an investigation or exploration into issues of concern in education in specific societies with a view to bringing about some kind of change in the education systems of these specific societies to benefit those who take advantage of or will take advantage of education in these specific societies. The results of this investigation or exploration may be used for cross-cultural comparisons. 

However, the overarching goal of educational research, as I see it, is to devise a system of education that reflects the ideals and realities of those to whom this education is dispensed. "The powers that be" who devise these systems hope that the recipients of the education that they have designed will exhibit certain kinds of behaviours that are advantageous to themselves and to s…

What does it mean to be educated?

Everybody has a different view of what it means to be educated. "The man or (woman) in the street has his/her view of what it means to be educated. Those who know that they are educated i.e. by virtue of them having degrees and other certification have their view of what it means to be educated.

But is this state, being educated, universally accepted as being based on the same criteria?  Does it mean that the educated person is able to read? If so, what level of reading constitutes being educated? Does it mean speaking the standard or formal language of our country? Does it mean having a knowledge of languages? Does it involve an ability to listen and understand what is heard? Does it mean being able to communicate clearly through writing? Does it mean the possession of skills? Does it mean the ability to clearly communicate ideas? Is to be educated linked to intelligence? Is it linked to our possession of knowledge/s? And if so, what knowledge/s? Are some "knowledges"…

What exactly is education?

There is an online university that is trying to entice prospective applicants with the tag line "Invest in your success". We can safely assume that education is the investment that prospective applicants are being encouraged to make to guarantee their success.

Many of us have grown up with the injunction from parents or teachers or other well-wishers that "education is the key to success". This "success" that we have been urged to seek after through education means different things to all of us but, basically, it is an improvement of our lives that is evident in us getting "good" jobs, being able to acquire the desirable material things of life, gaining status among other desirable resources.
The view of scholars