Christina Williams

Education Commission Slammed for Lack of Diversity

Publication Date: 
Friday, July 24, 2020

Christina Williams has called for a student representative on the new commission tasked with transforming Jamaica's education sector.

The composition of the High-Level Commission on Educational Transformation has been criticised for the absence of key stakeholders, including youth.

President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), Owen Speid, said that the deficit robs the commission of diversity and may skew its findings.

“This High-Level 14-member commission on the transformation of the education system seems to me to be high over the heads of the people on the ground. Clearly, that must be the high-level they talking about,” Speid quipped on Thursday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Wednesday named a 14-member commission to be chaired by Professor Orlando Patterson.

It will be responsible for conducting a comprehensive review and assessment of Jamaica’s education system including its structure and operations.

The commission will also recommend policy reforms.

But Speid believes that more imagination could have gone into its composition to make it more effective.

“We see that there are five professors and three principals. Two of them are no longer in the system at all named here, and so we have not seen enough representation at the various levels of the education spectrum for us to be comfortable,” Speid told The Gleaner.

The JTA, union for the more than 20,000 public-school teachers, believes that it was disrespected in being overlooked for membership on the policymaking commission.

“This is above the people’s head. High, indeed,” Speid said.

Meanwhile, Eric Crawford, a member of the 2004 Education Task Force that was chaired by Dr Rae Davis, said that while that report was submitted and several of its recommendations implemented, many remained domiciled.

He was unable to go into details, however.

Former University of the West Indies Guild President Christina Williams said that while she was delighted with the inclusion of a number of accomplished individuals, she was irked that the selectors did not tap youth potential.

She also questioned the absence of a student leader on the panel.

“The only person that we can identify as youthful is Mr Gordon Swaby, and he is very qualified, but we need to have persons being part of that commission who have served in the space and bring that kind of foresight and hindsight to be able to inform certain decisions.

“How can we transform education if we don’t have the persons there who need the transformation the most?” Williams asked.

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