Some education officials believe a major problem plaguing the local school system is the inability of some students to fully read and comprehend well; even at the secondary school level.
This position was voiced at a meeting held to discuss the ‘additional year’ at public secondary schools on Thursday.
A number of educators in the audience agreed with the assertion that was made by a local chemistry teacher.
In her comment, she said she believes that the change in curriculum at the primary level over the years has negatively impacted many of the students who are now at secondary school.
“When are we going to combat the real issue which is comprehension? When I was in primary school, we spent a lot of time on English and Mathematics. I find that students are coming into secondary school now with inept knowledge of things that we cover all the way up to CSEC level. But they cannot read and comprehend,” the teacher said.
“So, if I teach my students a concept and I give them a test, some of them can’t get it done. But if I read to them what the question is asking of them, they get it right away, which tells me reading and comprehension is the issue,” the educator said.
Add more local books to curriculum
While agreeing with the point, author and former principal Dr Quincy Lettsome said consideration should be given to adding local books to the literature curriculum in schools.
“What we might not be considering is how much local material we have on reading because sometimes some of the textbooks we might have might be dealing with certain things that the children are not familiar with,” he said.
“For example, they may talk about an elephant in a book but then we see things like the mountain dog and these type of things around us all the time and what you find is that the children will have more interest in things that they see or can touch every day rather than things that they cannot see so much.
Ministry to probe matter, determine solution
Education Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley said his ministry will look into the matter to determine the best solution to rectify the existing problem.
“Crudus MacTavious who leads the Curriculum Unit [of the ministry] has been urging me as the minister to put some resources into the reading resources and it just needs some money. So, I am going to see what’s available in this year’s budget and going forward I would like to see how we can budget to replenish and to strengthen our reading resources and those things have to happen quite quickly,” the minister said.
Dr Wheatley said he has a few reading programmes to be rolled out in the near future which he believes is essential apart from what takes place in schools.
“I have plans to partner with the Reading Council and other organisations because part of this we have to understand is a community problem. There’s a role for parents and local libraries to play and the Reading Council has an excellent programme that reaches out and read. As a district representative, I want to have reading programmes in my community whether it is after school or the weekend,” the former educator said.
Minister Wheatley further said: “There’s a role we play in the school where I believe we have to do more reading aloud. I’m still assessing what some of the issues are, since it’s so early in the term. But I am going to rely on my education officers and I’m also going to investigate to see what needs to be done to strengthen reading and comprehension skills, vocabulary, pronunciation, etcetera.”