A colleague of mine paused a minute to log in to zoom to check if her child was attentive in class. This was during the period when schools were closed. The preparatory school her son attends was equipped to continue teaching despite the challenges faced by primary schools. As I heard her son speak I asked ‘how him soun suh?” and she chuckled, knowing very well why I asked. She says that the only problem she has with the Prep school system is that the children are not ‘street tough’ and all speak standard English. At home she allows him to play with the ‘Primary School kids’ so he can toughen up a bit. Later, a little child engaged me in a conversation which had me confused. Both the child’s parents are Jamaican but the child speaks with a strong American accent. The child lives and attends school in Jamaica. I realized then, that we are raising children for the export market.
Between ages 6 and 12 children in Jamaica are required to access education in preparation for high school. They have the option of the public school system which we call “Primary School” or the private school system which we call “Preparatory School”. Prep schools are usually more expensive and the students are therefore from similar economic backgrounds. As a result, there is little variation among the students who are all able to access the recourses they need. They are less likely to depend on public transportation and as such what these young students see and hear is very controlled. This is in contrast with the primary school system where there are high variations among the student population’s economic background. A child attending primary school is more likely to depend on public transportation or live within walking distance from the school.
I am a proud product of the primary school system and while I master the country’s basilect, my English is not deficient. The quality of education delivered is still very good. While the variation in the product is wider in the primary schools, the best and brightest students I know are primary school educated students. The primary school system gives students a better look at the real world while preparatory school students are not exposed to all the elements of life.
When trying to decide which school to send your child, consider the following advantages and disadvantages of both schools.
Advantages of Preparatory Schools
- High teacher-student ratio
- Usually better facilities
- Better equipped for online education
Disadvantages of Preparatory Schools
- The students are not ‘street smart’.
- The students aren’t able to appreciate the country’s culture and dialect.
- Students are less independent.
- It is expensive.
- May create future snobs
Advantages of Primary Schools
- The students interact with a variety of other students from different socio-economic backgrounds.
- Much less expensive.
- Students learn to be independent.
Disadvantages of Primary Schools
- Low teacher-Student ratio
- Students may adopt unpredictable characteristics.
Whichever choice is made the biggest impact on your child’s life will be made at home. If your child attends primary schools, work on the disadvantages at home. If they attend preparatory school, ensure they know a thing or two about the real world.