Education Dennis Minott Taking Hold Of Jamaicas Grades 9 11
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO TAKE HOLD OF JAMAICA’S GRADES 9 TO 11 ?
by Dennis A. Minott PhD, and CEO of A-QuEST
“In a word, several of Jamaica’s high schools and teachers are out of control” is the
thesis statement of “The Minott Report 2005”, which was an empirical study of 980,000 records relating
to 2001-2004 CXC June Exam Performances at CSEC and CAPE. The A-QuEST Think Tank has seen no
empirical or quantitative evidence to vary that assertion in the three years since 2005. This is despite
obvious improvements in high school teacher emoluments and to school infrastructure over the past ten
To make matters worse, the nation’s Ministry of Education seems resigned to its own organizational
ennui in face of a systemic culture of obfuscation and shoddiness that pervades most accounting for
academic performance, especially in grades 9-11 of our high schools.
We submit that in order to meet national educational objectives, there needs to be a rigorous
framework of accountability designed to continually monitor and guide the several lines of ministerial
policy towards effective implementation.
For the limited purposes of this panel discussion, we make the following seven (7) recommendations
regarding better accountability for schooling students in grades 9-11:
Measures of school or individual teacher ‘production’---to use an ‘intuitive industrial’ term--- be based
on the value added to each of their charges.
To accomplish this,
a) Each child would have to be assigned a unique identifier based on his or her birth certificate number.
b) A uniform system of academic grading would be used from primary to tertiary level – instead of the
over 15 separate grade nomenclatures now in use. As a short term measure, pending the system-wide
adoption of this measure, a series of simple mathematical formulae and conversion tables be
promulgated for translating grades to a mandated common standard. Needless or idiosyncratic Grading
Peculiarities would be abolished.
c) Each student’s identity number would have subsidiary alpha-numeric fields that would readily allow
tracking of a child’s progress, each year, in each school, right through university.
4) The folder of data on each child/ student would be made available to the MOE, parents of the child,
teachers of the child and to all schools that the child has attended or plans to attend (one DVD easily
stores all CSEC results for 10 years and the CSEC and CAPE results for all Jamaicans over a seven year
A fixed core of six subjects be pursued by all students in grades 9 to 11 with any additional courses being
- This core of subjects should include English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, a foreign
language, a laboratory science and Caribbean History.
- Computer –related studies should be compulsory up to grade 10 for all students and, thereafter,
such subjects would be electives.
- No special interest groups would be allowed to skew a student’s choice of electives by offering
special incentives for the pursuit of particular electives. The present National Commercial Bank
support for the pursuit of CSEC Principles of Accounts and Principles of Business is a regrettable
precedent that is distorting the offerings of several high schools in a way that cannot promote
national development. Jamaica’s former premier science high school has officially closed its labs
and shifted the school’s emphasis to business subjects.
The discretion to decide on the number or types of core subjects to be taken by a child should be
removed from principals or their designees, from boards and from any regional directorate. Indeed,
any temporary variation needed by a school ought to be the subject of prior written approval by the
Minister of Education. Such approval to schools would be on a case-by-case basis.
‘Take Ratios, below 7 should earn a school and its teachers a ‘demerit’ in any system of
accountability. Regional Directorates would also be held accountable for any such lapses.
Timetabling that forces students into early specialization should attract a penalty for administrators
that indulge in the newly fashionable laziness called ‘pooling’. Pooling imposes early specialization
on thirteen (13) year olds,
To remove ‘buck passing’ and confusion in responsibilities between Principals, on the one hand, and
Education Officers, on the other, Regional Offices should be relieved of all responsibility for directing
instruction. Panel visits should be restructured and their occurrence triggered by particular
contingencies. Unannounced inspections should be integral to quality control in our schools.
In this scheme of things, annual points scored by a school, department or teacher may be altered
consequent on a panel visit or inspection. The methodology for such evaluations by panels and
inspections should be transparent. Furthermore, the results of these visits must be made available
a) The school’s PTA
b) The Students’ Council
c) The Member of Parliament
d) The Parish Council
e) The School’s Board
f) The Principal
g) The Alumni Association
Since college and employment guidance is so utterly abysmal in our high schools, a school’s guidance
and counseling department should be split so that nurses and social/psychological counselors are
grouped together and the distinct discipline of Academic and Career Guidance be operated separately.
Academic and Career Guidance Personnel and departments could then be made more accountable for
the outcomes of their work.
The seven recommendations given above will be elucidated in the panel discussion that follows.
October 29, 2008