May 2012 Volume 9

Why KC Remains A Perrenial Failure with at-risk Students

Everton Barrett
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It is so intensely frustrating when we as well meaning alumni have put so much into preserving Kingston College and trying so desperately to restore the valor that so many inspired folks before us sacrificed to make a reality. Sadly, we remain an enigmatic failure especially in our attempt to educate and cultivate an emerging class of young men.

The results of the National Education Inspectorate evaluation are undeniable; we are at best a mediocre institution blessed with devoted and committed stakeholders who strain to achieve low level results against tremendous odds. The recently issued report struggles to give KC a satisfactory rating; nevertheless our pretentious and narcissistic ways will hide the fact that we are rated lower than most of the traditional High Schools in the corporate area.

Our near success at Champs will inflate our conceitedness and we'll try to drown the noise that we are a captain- less ship whose rudders are broken and whose mangled sails are tattered in the winds of sub-par management. Yet there will be those among us that will revel in the sub-standard performance, spewing their hypocritical bile on our conscience in a shameless attempt to convince us that" it's not that bad."  This makes me angry, because at the end of the day, half the boys who enter KC will have flunked out and our pathetic souls will all carry on as if it's business as usual.

The education inspectors, by giving Kingston College a bye, do no justice to the cause of returning the country's secondary education to first world respectability, especially considering that this is the largest boy's high school in the English speaking Caribbean. They have gone out of their way to be kind to KC in their assessment when the evidence so clearly shows that this is a school failing in so many ways, that to give them a rating of satisfactory is an exaggeration of no mean feat. The inspectors found that there is little evidence of teachers planning to meet the needs of individual students, so in an environment where the lesson is delivered by lecture, you are at the mercy of God if you can't grasp it on the first go-around. To compound matters the students and Teachers are unaware of the level at which the students are working so neither group knows what they have to do to improve the student's performance. Consider this, all this occurs even though tests are administered to measure students strengths and weaknesses, the report concludes that nothing is done with the resulting data because strategic planning is non- existent. The report rips the leadership like Heads of Departments, saying they are given inadequate supervision and as such they are inept in leadership and management strategies, yet it curiously rates the school as satisfactory in this category.

One of the greatest benefits to a KC education in the 60's, 70's and 80's was the average KC man's ability to reason. In the 60's one could surmise that some of the building blocks for this ability came through the understanding of pervasive subjects such as  Latin. In the seventies there was heavy emphasis on the classics and world literature. The 80's saw diminishing emphasis being placed on the classics but still experiments with subjects such as new math meant there was still an emphasis on development of cognitive skills. The current report now concludes there is absolutely no development of cognitive skills, without which complex subjects like math, reading comprehension and writing will never be mastered, and we are wondering why we are doing so poorly in math passes, or students can't understand what they read.  In most aspects of curriculum development we seem to be on a downward trend, while we embrace Information Technology as the way forward, to truly understand this subject and how it can be applied to real world solutions, you're going to have to understand math, and to truly understand algebra you're going to have to understand reasoning which takes developed cognitive skills.

In every civilized country the trend is to raise the bar, only in our seriously vertically challenged country is there a concerted effort to lower the bar. Anyone born before 1980 knows that the CSEC cannot be compared to the GCE "O" level, but yet we continue to water it down. In addition, the Ministry of mis-education in concert with inept department heads refuses to demand accountability from Teachers who would cruise through a semester focusing only on the few students who display exceptional learning abilities. The above average student, the one that is most capable of winning a major scholarship or achieving major success with a minimum of  teacher assistance is the one that all the schools resources are lavished on, meanwhile the average 10th grade student at the school is having difficulty identifying the characteristics of a right angle triangle. Again the school is given a satisfactory rating in mathematic development; one of the inspectors must have attended KC. How can a high school continue to operate without a credible remedial program? Is it prudent that we keep dumping half the incoming class every year when they get to the ninth grade because we are unable and unwilling to provide meaningful lesson plans that are geared to the remedial student?  I guess as a society we may need a few more gunmen, gangsters and derelicts and of course there is the misguided philosophy that says "we all aren't meant to succeed."

An esteemed Old Boy in a recent email opined "I have been trying to make sense out of what is going on at KC for the past twenty eight years and feel that we (as alumni) are too prone to consider everything we do to be righteous and moral and serve a cause. We are not willing to say if it doesn't produce (good) results then maybe we should change course or direct our resources elsewhere… there is a dilemma of leadership and accountability at KC and (yet) we can't sort it out." 

The above quote tells me many people see what's going on at KC and know it's unacceptable, yet they remain powerless to demand change and to tell those in charge that sub- par performance is unacceptable and if you can't contribute to the upliftment, you are part of the failure. We simply can't afford to sit back and not offer positive criticism for the sake of not being seen as some wise sage sitting on his high horse and dispensing clever solutions to the hapless masses.  

The need to not hurt the good teacher's feeling has caused so many well meaning stakeholders to remain silent on the issue of poor accountability, but it is a sad mistake to cuddle ineffective teachers and inept administrators because they've made our school so much poorer as an institution, made it easier to lower the bar and made mediocrity the standard. One would hope that the good teachers would be motivated to expel the failures from their midst as it makes their job harder and brings the honorable profession into disrepute. The good teachers that are committed and dedicated have always shouldered the weight of the educational responsibilities, they have been the backbone of the school, that long after one has left school one still gets the yearning to go back and give that teacher one last hug and thank them profusely for making the difference in one's life.

Yes, that one good teacher can be the difference between success and failure for a generation of students. Sadly, KC doesn't have enough of those and one should not be surprised when we are left bringing up the rear in the academic arena with an undeserved rating of "Satisfactory."

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