One of the younger secondary schools has taken steps to address what for many years some in education have acknowledge is a seeming disadvantage in the system.
As of September this year, the curriculum of the Parkinson Memorial School will be changing to address remedial challenges that a committee established there has identified.
Principal Jeff Broomes, in a meeting with a relatively small section of parents who turned up at the school’s hall this evening, explained that for too long it seemed like a game of “blind man’s bluff”, with students entering with in some cases below 40 per cent passes in English and Maths at the Common Entrance level then being expected to follow the same programme of students who had scored above 80 per cent and gone to “higher” schools.
Acknowledging however that it could take two to three years before real results of the changes they were implementing started to be felt and seen in the performance of students who still have to sit the requisite CXC exams at the end of their school lives, Broomes said however from September the school would be on a different path.
A “full-fledged remedial programme” will be introduced for first and second forms, with diagnostic testing done for identified students to determine their aptitude.
“What are the implications of that? Right now all secondary school children are guaranteed five years of secondary education with a possibility of six. It may put some pressure on the school along the line, but once we involve a programme of remediation at the beginning…, these children will be guaranteed six years with a possibility of seven and we stand firmly on that,” he said, to sounds of approval from parents.
Additionally, there will be changes in the curriculum throughout the school to expose students to the arts, computer technology, manufacturing, hotel related subjects, with heavy elements of skills-based teaching.
The decisions were taken, Broomes said, after studying the school’s profile for the past three years and finding that the number of students entering with a percentage of less than 35 from Common Entrance ranged from 10 in one year to 45 in another, and this was with an annual intake of about 160 or so students.
“When you put children in schools with those marks and ask them to follow a regular programme, what happens is that … the average pass rate per year group at first form, 61 per cent of children pass the exams… In second form it drops to 57 [per cent]; in third form it drops to 52; in fourth form it drops to 40, because they did not have the adequate foundation to carry forward a full programme at that stage,” he noted.
He said likewise, there were instances of children leaving without a single pass at CXC, a situation that simply was not good enough in today’s environment, adding that the students of Parkinson were as good as any in other schools in the island. All he said that was needed was a proper base on which to build, hence the introduction of the new curriculum.
The Ministry of Education, he explained, had insisted on some core subjects like Maths, English, Social Studies, Integrated Science and Spanish, which would all be done in first and second forms.
Additionally, those two years would be introduced to remedial reading, lessons in library studies, for which the school’s librarian has already developed a syllabus; and classes in the creative arts, specifically art, music and drama, with drama being introduced as a stand alone subject from third form. All students will also take personal development courses like health and family life education, religious education and physical education.
“Also, as we go forward in the 21st century … now we have to develop skills… We don’t talk about trades anymore but it is still necessary. So right here from first form all children will have exposure to the use of computers. All children will have industrial arts technologies, the basics of woods and so on, and all children will learn to do food and nutrition, from first form up, all,” he said as parents applauded.
A value based inter-departmental programme will be introduced to students in third form and options for the seniors will be broadened. In addition to the arts, science, technology and commercial streams that the seniors are divided into, there will be the development of a number of virtual programme choices.
There will be a personal care and beautification institute to teach cosmetology and aesthetics, along with basic needlework; a virtual manufacturing plant developed with the assistance of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic to look at wood, metal and areas like plumbing and other highly technical skills; a virtual hotel focusing on developing tourism-based skills, along with cake icing and decoration and the addition of practical Spanish for real work scenarios, as well as the development of a virtual recording studio for music.
There will be physical adjustments to the uniforms of the seniors as well, with the introduction of new ties for fifth form students, along with a waistband for girls in both fourth and fifth forms. All items will be green and yellow and the school is examining the possibility of adding tabs to the skirts of the girls to accommodate the new bands. Fourth form students will continue to wear epaulettes. (LB)