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JAM | Aug 31, 2023

Dennis A. Minott, PhD | Unshackling Education: Overcoming transcript challenges for a thriving Caribbean

/ Our Today

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Dennis A. Minott.

In a dual narrative featured in our primary newspapers on August 19, 2023, the spotlight shone on the journey of Jamaican scholars, celebrating their achievements while obliquely touching upon the formidable obstacles that hinder the educational progress of deserving youth in the nation and the CARICOM region.

Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams (centre, front row); British High Commissioner to Jamaica Judith Slater (fourth right, front row), and former state minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Leslie Campbell (to the Minister’s right), with the 2022 United Kingdom (UK) Chevening Government Scholarships awardees. They were awarded their scholarship certificates during a reception held at the British High Commissioner’s Residence in Kingston, on August 25.

The combination of these distinct stories converges on a critical problem afflicting Jamaica’s education system: the urgent need for a comprehensive overhaul in the management of academic transcripts.
The first narrative, a commendable celebration, took centre stage in The Gleaner. A group of 14 scholars survived to achieve the esteemed honour of becoming 2023 Chevening scholars, poised to pursue higher education in various fields across the United Kingdom. Their dedication, ambition, and commitment to advancing their education and contributing to the nation’s progress deservedly earned recognition. However, beyond the applause, a pivotal question arises: What challenges, concealed beneath the “nice” smiling surface, did these scholars and many others, whose names remain unmentioned, encounter on their educational journeys? Challenges that might slip by unnoticed amidst the triumphs being celebrated?

Simultaneously, the Jamaica Observer highlighted the triumph of Jamaican recipients of the prestigious Erasmus Mundus Scholarship, a substantial achievement. Noteworthy individuals like Kenardo Matherson and Ganga Laheja secured this distinguished scholarship, propelling them towards advanced studies in science, technology, and engineering at esteemed European universities. These scholars epitomize the untapped brilliance within the Caribbean, showcasing the potential for excellence, yet also highlighting the susceptibility to decline within these countries. (Further insight can be found in the April 11, 2022 ” Shadee Morrison” Jamaica Observer horror story out of the small rural Westwood High School {https://www.jamaicaobserver.com/article/i-was-robbed-of-my-right-to-choose/} and congruent but less publicised, verified ones out of the large urban Ardenne High School).

Paradoxically, the spotlight on achievement casts a stark shadow on the lurking challenges below. The darker side of these success stories comes to light when we consider the substantial “wasting” economic consequences occasioned by inadequate transcript preparation and delivery.

I will provide some vital information in a table format for better clarity:

DescriptionValue (US$)
Average Cost per Jamaican student/year to a US college. What FinAid Pays for Yearly in America$53,694.70
Number of Jamaican students who apply per year in 20233000
Percentage of Faulty- or Late-Transcript Affected Students75%
Factor (3 out of 4 scenario)4
Loss per Student = Average Cost per Student * Percentage of Affected Students Loss per Student = $53,694.70 * 0.75$40,271.02
Magnitude of Loss for 3000 Students cohort = Loss per Student * Number of Students * Factor Magnitude of Loss = $40,271.02 * 3000 * 4$482,252,650

This table outlines the data, assumptions, and calculations that led to the conservative conclusion that the cumulative loss for 3,000 Jamaican high school student applicants to US universities and colleges, where 75 per cent of them are affected by inadequately prepared transcripts, is approximately $482,252,650. This emphasises the significant financial impact arising from the inability of these most able students to pursue higher education due to transcript-related issues. These are high achievers at or above the 90th percentile academically according to ACT, SAT, or CXC.

(From left) Beaches Negril playmakers, Richard Raymond, David Mitchell, Shyanne Miller and Calantha Braham were captured in complete “ol time Jamaican sumting” mode as they shared the traditional art form of storytelling.

For perspective, it is undeniably impressive that Jamaica generated a remarkable US$2,770,956,814 in revenue from Jamaica’s Tourism Guest Accommodation Room Tax in the pre-pandemic financial year ending March 31, 2019. What raises concern is the revelation that a parallel amount of around US$482 million, roughly equivalent to 17.4 per cent of that budget year’s tourism income from room tax, was likely forfeited in scholarships due to inadequate transcript management in our schools, community colleges, and even some local universities.

The magnitude of this situation demands immediate attention. While acknowledging the efforts of those dedicated school administrators across institutions, it is imperative to address this chaotic situation collectively, under the leadership of the ministers of education, planning, and development. The establishment of a centralized school records registry becomes a pivotal step towards rectifying this costly disorder. Why should West Indians tolerate “chakka chakka”, school-by-school transcript regimes, and fiefdoms in Jamaica and the broader CARICOM region? By embracing proven practices from more efficient systems, this registry would ensure the streamlined compilation and prompt delivery of academic records, fostering an environment where potential flourishes instead of being stifled by peculiarity.

Here’s the thing: As we applaud the accomplishments of Chevening and Erasmus Mundus scholars, we must contemplate the broader panorama—the prosperity of the Caribbean hinges upon a robust education system, liberated from administrative inefficiencies. The stories of frustrated and “robbed” scholars transcend isolated incidents, representing a broader struggle that must be addressed for the greater good.

Ultimately, the path to a reformed education system is an investment not only in individual aspirations beyond CXC/UWI/UTT/UG/NCU/UCC, Etc. but also in the advancement and prosperity of the entire region. As we navigate forthcoming challenges, a collective commitment to change will ensure that the upcoming generation of scholars and leaders can thrive, unimpeded by the numerous obstacles of bureaucratic inefficiencies. The journey toward a brighter future begins by reshaping the present, with the reverberations of benefits resonating through generations to come.

Footnote: People with High IQs and the Frustration of Inefficiency

Our people with high IQs often hold themselves and their surroundings to high standards, often being critical of inefficiencies, ignorance, and resistance to learning. They value expanding knowledge, understanding concepts from different angles, and fact-based reasoning. Highly intelligent youth can find it frustrating to interact with those who lack interest in learning or blindly repeat information without critical evaluation.

My observation from four decades of working with bright young people in A-QuEST college counselling is that such individuals become exasperated by encountering inefficient systems that could be improved, seeing them as missed opportunities. They also dislike arbitrary rules based on tradition and narcissistic entitlement rather than evidence-based reasoning. This frustration stems from their desire for productive solutions and progressivism rather than outdated thinking.

Furthermore, highly intelligent individuals take pride in their intellectual abilities and are disheartened when their aspirations beyond CXC, UWI/UTECH/NCU/UCC/SALCC/UTT, etc. aren’t valued or respected. This frustration can lead to a sense of alienation, especially when these individuals are confronted daily by obstacles resulting from outdated systems within society.

This footnote illustrates how the inefficient management of academic transcripts, as described in my main text, can lead to the frustration and potential alienation of highly intelligent individuals who seek logical, streamlined processes in education and beyond.

For the national good, school administrators would do well to stop shoving and tethering our youngsters to permanent exile overseas. Alas, few will cease and desist on their own. Modern governance, governance, and more governance are sorely needed with respect to transcripts! How about our own Central Schools’ Transcripts Authority (CeSTA)?


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