Home Economics is not just a subject which teaches students to cook and sew, but it teaches them fundamental life skills.
And the past President of the International Association of Home Economists, Professor Geraldine Hodelin, who was speaking at a press conference at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic this morning, is urging policy makers to see the importance of Home Economics in schools.
“The discipline has grown so big and wide it has to have a place in the class because most professions that come out of the school system [have] some aspect of community, family and individual wellbeing. Home Economics has grown to include all aspects of professional activity and not only that of domestic activity. Out of Home Economics you have: nutritionists, welfare workers, child care, professions which lead to hospitality and tourism, which produced educators, planners…,” she said.
Furthermore she stated: “In Jamaica we have learned to accept how we redefine Home Economics as an occupational skill. What we have called cooking and cleaning, the industry has turned it around. When we turn on the TV we hear about master chef, iron chef, what are they doing? They are scaling fish and peeling bananas, it is the same thing that we are doing in the Home Economic classes. They have project Runway… they are designing clothes, sewing clothes and modelling clothes — the same thing we do.
“When we talk about the programme we don’t want to be caught in the trap of saying, ‘well we teach them to sew’. When you learn to sew you skirt it is a life skill. If we continue to train our professionals and deliverers of [Home Economics] the substance, the quality of life issues, the empowerment of individuals will still remain a part of the curriculum. So the issue for me is what does the curriculum look like? As oppose to what we call it…”.
President of the Caribbean Association of Home Economists, Audrey Jones-Drayton, who addressed reports that the number of Home Economic classes were being dropped by some colleges in the Caribbean, said that she was hopeful that as the 20th biennial CAHE conference came to a close this evening the information disbursed would have opened the eyes of policy makers.
“In planning and approaching policy makers, sponsors, they had the same perception that everybody else had, that we are cooks and we don’t need to be too smart if you are doing Home Economics. However in these last few days they got quite a different picture and I believe that is the framework for things to come. I know that finances is going to be a major limitation but I think we are going to get there bit by bit… Getting back into schools from first form, that is where I would like to see it start, whatever name they call it, it is there.”
She added: “I think we fall into the trap of just focussing on those three areas that are taught in schools: Food and Nutrition, Home Economics Management, Clothing and Textiles, but we are also involved at a higher levels as Home Economists not just Home Economic teachers. Making policies in curriculum areas, advocating for families, placing ourselves on boards and advisory bodies, informing and educating Governments and agencies concerned about families. When I ask my student teachers ‘who else teaches this?’ they say ‘social sciences’. I say ‘yes they teach the theory but we actually teach skills for you to live and exist in order to function.”
The conference ended this evening after three days of workshops involving some 143 Home Economic teachers from around the region as well as the United States and Australia. (KC)