Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Thursday | January 10, 2013
Home : Commentary
Transfers? Leave the system alone
By Keith Noel

My friend Dr Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham has been leading a charge to put an end to the transfer of students from one school to another in order to bolster sports programmes.

Apparently, Dr Graham thinks that this practice is wrong because it conflicts with his elemental philosophy of education. Students, he contends, are placed into schools on the basis of an academic examination and that should be the only consideration for entry.

He believes that if a student has not earned his place in a school by his or her performance in the Grade Six Achievement Test, this student is robbing a more deserving child of a position.

He admits, however, that there are circumstances in which transfers could take place. For example, he accepts that if the student's family were to migrate from one part of the country to another, the student would necessarily have to be transferred to a school near to where he or she lives. A move from Montego Bay to Kingston would necessitate a student's transfer from Mount Alvernia High to St Andrew High, or from Cornwall College to Wolmer's Boys. That's fine with him.

What is his concern is the transfer of a youngster for the purpose of representing his or her new school in sports.

Dr Graham is entitled to his opinion and we respect him for the clarity and forcefulness with which he has represented his position. But when one hears that he is being listened to by senior persons in the Ministry of Education, and maybe even the minister himself, one has to take pause.

The practice has been, one may say, entrenched in our school system. It has been abused in the past, but the persons who are actually in charge of the education of our youngsters, the school principals, have put things in place to end this abuse. I think that we must be very careful not to, from outside, tamper with a system the experts in the field of education have hammered out over the years.

I remember, in a public discussion years ago, I pointed out that it was the system of transfers that moved students from schools whose sports programmes were weak, to those where the programmes were strong, that had developed most of our track and field athletes into the world-beaters they were. Youngsters with athletic talent generally moved to the schools where they could most efficiently develop their talent. When other schools wanted to keep their athletes, they put in place appropriate programmes and employed persons who were able to develop the talents of their youngsters.

NURTURE SPORTING TALENT

I have a question for Dr Graham: A man had a son who, while at primary school, had shown real talent as a cricketer. However, the boy, who lived in Portmore, had been placed at Cumberland High, and the coach of the cricket team at Innswood High had offered to assist him in getting a transfer to that school. What would Dr Graham advise, bearing in mind that Cumberland was one of those schools that had no cricket programme and did not even enter the Grace Shield competition? Should the boy have remained where he was placed, or go to a school where his talent would be nurtured?

There are some schools that do not focus on some sports. But Dr Graham insists that all of this is by the way and that schools are academic institutions primarily, so sports should not be given such a priority that a student can be transferred simply to hone sporting talent and strengthen a school team.

But Muggy needs to realise that this is no longer so. Schools are educational institutions. The arts and sports are an integral part of education, and transferring a student because he or she has athletic ability is no different from transferring because a school offers an academic programme and another does not.

Incidentally, the argument that a transfer robs a more deserving student of a place is trivial. All students are placed, and all high schools offer, more or less, the same academic opportunities for its students. This is not so where the arts and sports are concerned.

Keith Noel is an educator and former principal of St Jago High School. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and keithanoel@gmail.com.

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