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No Excuses! Educators Can Create Magic

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Dr. Renee Rattray, Director, Education Programmes at the JN Foundation and well-known educational leadership professional has challenged educators and school leaders in Jamaica to be more vigilant and confront the status quo in the education system in order to improve student success.

Dr. Renee Rattray makes a point during a presentation at the UNICEF Activate Talks at The University of the West Indies recently.
Dr. Renee Rattray makes a point during a presentation at the UNICEF Activate Talks at The University of the West Indies recently.

Dr. Rattray who was among a group of four innovators speaking at the UNICEF Activate Talks themed: Far from Chalk and Talk: Learning from Innovative Approaches in Education held at The Faculty of Law at The University of the West Indies, Mona, recently, stressed that there is an urgent need to repair the system, which she said would continue to fail students if educators refused to challenge the current structure by implementing new approaches.

The manager of the new comprehensive iLead Educational Leadership Programme said educators must not be afraid to make decisions that will lead to improve student engagement and consequently increased student success.

She declared that, “Staying inside the box has not worked for us over the past few decades. In fact, annually, too many of children fail, while school leaders, policy makers and teachers remain in their little boxes and continue to do business as usual.”

Using anecdotes, the educator underscored that if the system was allowed to remain as it is, then at the end of the school year only five of a Grade Eleven cohort of 200 students would pass Mathematics and English Language.

“Come next September thousands of barely literate and numerate children will enter the secondary system from primary schools, where they will become frustrated and lose interest. At the end of the school year, hundreds of students, most of them boys, would graduate without gaining one single subject or skill,” Dr. Rattray bemoaned.

Dr. Rattray’s comments follow the launch of the iLead Education Leadership Programme, a private-public partnership between the JN Foundation and the Ministry of Education, targeted to the leadership of 15 primary and high schools in the parishes of Portland, St. Mary and St. Thomas. iLead will transform student outcomes and support the Ministry’s Education Officers assigned to the region.

The parishes, which form the Ministry’s Region Two, are considered the most in need of support according to the latest report from the National Education Inspectorate.

Dr. Rattray maintained that strong school leadership and effective teaching are the most important contributors to the success of students; however, there is no sense of urgency to change the rote methodology which generates underachievement.

“Everyday there’s some other reason why our children can’t learn: They do not get good grades. They can’t achieve. And, the excuses are the same as they have been for decades,” she said.

, “We got them like this from other schools; it’s the parents; it’s the communities they are from; there are not enough resources in the schools. And while we continue to make excuses and blame, blame, blame, our children fail,” Dr. Rattray continued.

Pointing to the effective changes implemented at the Godfrey Stewart High School in Westmoreland under the Centres of Excellence programme implemented by JNBS and The Victoria Mutual Building Society, Dr. Rattray said leaders who make a difference can create “magic” in schools; “They get the message that they are running a learning institution where everyone, including the adults, are there to learn.”

She said that administrators and educators who participated in the Centre of Excellence programme and used data to find the formula and the solutions to explain why children are not learning and fixed the problem..

“They realised that they must observe what’s happening in the schools which are getting it right and use their own data to tweak and twist until they find the solutions. They understood that doctors take the time to observe other skilled surgeons in order to sharpen their craft, so why shouldn’t teachers do the same?” she underscored.

Noting that school leaders must set the standards to succeed, and be willing to improvise and change things when they are not getting results, she said, “That’s the magic for creating a happily ever after; for creating sustainable national development; and for changing lives for generation to come! No shortcuts! No excuses! School leaders can create magic!”

Other speakers at the UNICEF forum included, mathematician and founder of Halls of Learning, Marvin Hall; entrepreneur and conceptualiser of Crayons Count, Deika Morrison; and General Manager of Jakes Resort in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth and founder of the not-for-profit group Breds, Jason Henzell.

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