GLEANER: A proposed formal policy for the zoning of secondary schools will not be in place for the 2019 implementation of the Primary Exit Profile (PEP), which is slated to replace the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), stated Ruel Reid, minister of education, youth and information.
"I want to definitively say that zoning is not being contemplated for 2019, and even if there's going to be any such shift in policy, I've made it very clear it has to be a national consensus. The ministry by itself won't implement such a radical change in approach," declared Reid in the presence of a team from his ministry at a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the media house's North Street, Kingston, office, yesterday.
The proposed zoning system would see students being mandated to attend secondary schools within a particular geographic region, usually within proximity of their residence.
"There have been recommendations to that end and in terms of changing how we place students, but we're not there yet. We would have to secure the full endorsement of the Opposition, the National Parent-Teacher Association, the Jamaica Teachers' Association, Parliament, Cabinet, and the National Council on Education," noted the education minister.
SHORT OF SCHOOLS
The lack of schools in some regions was also noted as an impediment to the zoning, along with Reid underscoring the need for the quality of education across all schools to be raised before any such shift becomes effective.
"We're already short 17 schools, and if you're going to do clustering and zoning, you have to ensure there is an adequate number of schools aligned to the needs of the particular population in each area. The ministry would also have to ensure that the quality of all schools is standardised," he pointed out.
With regard to school placement, students will continue to have seven options for their preferred institutions.
In July 2015, then education minister Ronald Thwaites stated that while he was hopeful about the widespread implementation of zoning, it was too soon to consider a formal zoning policy.
Factors such as the additional transportation cost parents bear as a result of their children having to travel several miles to school and the impact the lengthy journey has on the learning ability of students was also highlighted by Thwaites.
Parents and other stakeholders have voiced their discontent with the zoning proposal, citing that it presents a barrier to higher-learning opportunities.
CAPTION: Senator Ruel Reid, Minister of Education, Youth and Information