Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Textbook List Mania in Jamaica

In these days of austerity, unemployment, recession, high light bills and IMF, parents should not be asked to buy, for their children, books they cannot afford, do not need and probably will not use. Where are the voices of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association and the PTA’s in this matter? The Minister of Educatio, has commented with concern, but my internet search for the Ministry of Education’s endorsed list drew a blank.

Below is a Textbook List for Grade 2 in a government primary school. The total cost for these books is $10,160.00. ( Ja $85 = U.S. $1; so that is about U.S.$ 120). Furthermore, they weigh 8lb 4oz, which a child has to carry every day on her back, since the teacher cannot say which books will be used.

In addition to the books listed below, each student is supplied with 6 Integrated Studies books (2 per term), one math book and an anthology, by the Ministry of Education.

Oxford Primary Dictionary $690.00

Worship in Words (hymn book) $325.00 (These should serve the student through grade 6.)

What a Fright and other stories by Maciver, Baker, Down and Down (Hodder Gibson) $995.00 198 pages. 45 stories each followed by comprehension questions and exercises.

Creative English for Caribbean Primary Schools by Clifford Narinesingh (Royards) $1,147.00 148 pages. 22 units with reading, talking and writing activities.

Practising Comprehension by Clifford Narinesingh (Royards) ($801.00) Instructions for Recalling facts, Selecting the Main Idea, Sequencing followed by 48 practice exercises.

New Caribbean Junior English by Haydn Richards (Ginn) $1,250.00 This is not called a workbook, but the student is expected to write in it, making it unusable to another student. 122 pages: Parts of Speech, Sentence structure, readings, comprehension questions etc.

Integrated Reader 2 by McLean and Fearon (Mid-Island Educators) $1020.00 155 pages. 38 reading passages on a variety of science and social studies topics, followed by activities.

There is a great deal of overlap in the content of these five books, and a total of 275 ‘lessons’—far more than can be completed in one school year. One of these five books, together with teaching, would cover everything in the syllabus.

Integrated Phonics Workbook by McLean and Fearon (Mid-Island Educators) $976.00 If the child needs a phonics workbook, he would not be able to read much in the books listed above!

Grade 2 Integrated Mathematics Workbook by Miles, Campbell, McLean and Fearon (Mid-Island Educators) $976.00.

Second Year Assessment Tests English by Hyacinth Bennett (Carlong) $990.00

Second Year Assessment Tests Mental Ability by Hyacinth Bennett (Carlong) $990.00

At this same primary school last year, a student in grade 1 was required to purchase two workbooks which were hardly used. One of the books had 200 pages—only 20 pages were used.

This booklist mania is not in the interest of parents, students or Jamaica. Many of these books are published overseas; publishers here have to buy paper and ink abroad, both using up valuable foreign exchange.

Let us make 2011 the last year of inflated booklist madness.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Old Primary School

This photo is of the primary school I attended 60 years ago, which in itself would make it old, but the building is much older than that. I had hoped to make a presentation in that building, but the school population having grown from a 1-stream entry to a 3-stream entry can no longer be accommodated there. Instead I went to the new Hampden Road school, where I presented Delroy to all three streams of year 6. They filed in and sat on the floor for assembly, as I had done as a child. Apart from that, they were a world away from where I am now, in time and space. Even so, they were able to connect with Delroy.

Visit to a primary school in Birmingham England

My second school visit while in the UK was to a primary school in Birmingham. I visited two classes, neither of which knew anything about Delroy. Both were captivated by my presentation. The second group had a report to write about my visit, so busied themselves making notes. They had plenty of questions to ask, too.

Visit to St. Mary's Music School, Edinburgh

While on a visit to the UK in April, I had the privilege of speaking to two classes at St. Mary's Music School. The first was a group of 15-16 year olds in which we discussed the challenges presented by writing. Their teacher was happy that I emphasized the importance of planning. The second was a class of primaries, who had already seen my book trailer and my interview on CVM. Their teacher had read excerpts from Delroy to them. They were armed with questions, including "What is your favourite animal?" (cat) and "What is your favourite colour?" (aqua). They were curious about Jamaica and were amazed that the temperature rarely drops below 20 degrees Celsius.

Thank you.

Thanks to all of you who voted for me online. Delroy in the Marog Kingdom won that section of the Book Industry of Jamaica's contest for the best children's chapter book.

Blogger's block

I have had blogger's block (a variation of writer's block) for the past 6 months, but am back again.