Standards for the school system which address teaching and discipline, among others, are still on the Ministry of Education’s agenda for implementation.
This was hinted at yesterday as Acting Deputy Chief Education Officer (with responsibility for schools) Joy Gittens, addressed principals from across the public sector during a conference at Accra Beach Hotel, Rockley, Christ Church.
The forum titled: Standards the Key to Success: Violence in the School Environments, Understanding the Causes and Providing the Solutions, was hosted by the executive members of public primary school principals, as part of activities to mark Education Month 2011.
Ms. Gittens said: "Several years ago, I circulated standards for schools and teachers to educational stakeholders. The stakeholder unions endorsed the school standards but had some concerns about the teacher standards. I believe these school standards are still relevant."??
Explaining that the CARICOM Secretariat had been given direction by its Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) to develop Regional Standards of Performance for the Teaching Profession and National Teaching Councils, she underlined, "Draft standards have been developed by a regional task force. The standards developed are for academics, teaching, performance, management and administration of professionals and monitoring and evaluation."
The educational official added that it was expected that these would bring teaching more in line with the established professions as there would be a deliberate focus on the quality of teachers and the quality of their teaching. It was noted too, that measures which would eventually be introduced would facilitate, nurture and support teacher development, "thereby enhancing quality assurance and the status of the
"It will also facilitate teacher licensing," Ms. Gittens maintained, while pointing out too that in line with standards for discipline, "the Ministry was in the final stages of getting Cabinet???s approval for the Code of Discipline for Schools, which has been in draft for some time".
Turning attention to the issue of violence, Ms. Gittens noted that principals were aware of increasing reports of violence in the classroom, on the playing field, the roads and in buses.?? Querying: ???Where the behaviour was coming from, the educational official acknowledged that students were "creatures of the society". She added: "We say we have a lot of problem children, I say we have a lot of children with problems. They have no extended family to watch out for them.?? They have seen violence on TV and in video games from [a young age]."
Recalling her own experience as a child watching cartoons, she stressed that violence in today’s pictures was different. "Children are bringing the violence from outside the gates of the school onto the school compound. What they see… they do. Adults are selling drugs to our students. How then can the students think rationally at school? Adults are abusing our students physically, verbally and emotionally. What they see…they do.
"So we have an increase in extortion, "cuss outs", slander on Facebook and other social media. So in our schools we have the bully, the bullied and the bystander.
The bystanders are afraid to talk for fear of retaliation. Adults are exposing our students to sexual material and engaging in sexual acts with them. What they see…they do. There are sexual predators and innocent children who want to experiment on their peers what they have been exposed to," Ms. Gittens observed.
Admitting that there was a need to focus on the hidden curriculum some more, the official advised: "…spend more time teaching soft skills to our students – skills such as respect, tolerance, conflict resolution, responsibility, knowledge of self and independence."
While acknowledging that it was necessary for the Ministry to have up-to-date information, with accurate statistics on expulsions, suspensions and bullying,?? Ms. Gittens contended that the profession must be "data driven" and should "not act on perceptions". She told principals: "The Ministry is asking you to supply data using the Education Management Information System. If you have problems with this system contact us."
In addition to updating principals about standards, the conference was aimed at ensuring that primary school principals could identify some causes of violence, determine solutions and, on return to their schools, begin the process of implementation. Later efforts will see schools evaluating the programme and sharing best practices.