Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Renewed calls for abolition of shift system in schools

Published:Tuesday | April 4, 2017 | 12:00 AMOkoye Henry
A 2011 photo of students of the St James High School.

School administrators in western Jamaica have renewed calls for the complete abolition of the double-shift system in order to lift student performance in academics and extra-curricular activities.

Principal of the St James High School, Joseph Williams, and his counterpart, Salome Foster, vice-principal of the Savanna-la-Mar Primary School in Westmoreland, are touting "a sooner-rather-than-later approach" for their respective schools to get rid of what they say is the counterproductive shift system, for the benefit of both students and teachers.

Williams, whose school remains the only institution on the two-shift system in St James, told Western Focus that the full-day system would provide an unhurried and relaxed learning environment for students and would afford teachers greater opportunities to identify, assess, and deal with the potential learning problems of their students.

 

LESS TIME TO PREPARE

 

"The students we get from GSAT are those who get in the lower percentage, but they sit the same exams with 50 per cent of the time to prepare as those who go to schools whole day," Williams said. "They have the greatest disadvantage ... . If a student's performance is low, the teachers who are willing to do extra classes cannot because no classroom is available, and not everybody is willing to come on a Saturday or Sunday to have classes. Even those who have their athletic prowess, we don't have any time so they can go out and practise after school because they have to make way for the other kids on the next shift."

Foster echoed similar sentiments, pointing out the dangers some morning-shift students face when leaving their volatile communities before daybreak to reach school by 7:30 a.m.

"They then only get roughly four and a half hours to cram schoolwork, lesson time, and extra-curricular activities," she said.

 

SCHOOL OVERCROWDED

 

The Savanna-la-Mar Primary School was reportedly built to accommodate 750 students. However, the administrator said that the institution currently has 1,400 students on roll. Schools such as St James High have had to try to mitigate overcrowding by cutting back on intake numbers.

"We used to get up to 600 students per year, some 400 from GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test), and the rest from GNAT (Grade Nine Achievement Test), and those seeking transfer to the school, but we don't have the space for GNAT again. We take less than 400 students from GSAT up to last year, and then those seeking transfer here, we try and help out some," Williams explained.

State minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Floyd Green says that over the next three years, the schools in the west that will be targeted include Petersfield High and Grange Hill Primary in Westmoreland as well as the Black River and Lacovia High schools in St Elizabeth.

"We plan to continue taking schools off the shift system because that is one of the goals of our administration," he said.