The Parliamentary Opposition says reports of fewer students signing up for tests administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) this year highlight the extent of the learning fall out among Jamaican children.
Former President of the Association of Principals and Vice Principals Linton Weir told Radio Jamaica News that some students have decided against taking external exams after falling behind because of disruptions to their education caused by COVID-19.
Opposition Spokesperson on Education Dr. Angela Brown Burke says the issue is of great concern.
"The ministry's own audit show a significant loss in learning and we know the consistent year-on-end issue with the discrepancy in terms of learning across the schools. What that means today is that in whatever we are doing, we have to put something in place to make sure that our students are able to function at the level that we want them to function," she asserted.
Dr. Brown Burke said the ministry should move with alacrity to assist students to recover from the missed learning opportunities.
"We have already seen that online learning is not working for many of our students. In fact, the minister mentioned the four modalities in terms of learning that is available. At the end of 2020, we recognised that all of those were not working. I believe therefore that we have to press the reset button and all of us have to come together to say, OK, what do we do differently? What else do we do now to ensure that we don't have that kind of poor performance that we are seeing?" she suggested.
Repeat 2020/2021 school year
Linvern Wright, President of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, says the Ministry of Education should seriously contemplate a repeat of the 2020/2021 academic year for the hundreds of students who have not been engaged since September.
Mr. Wright said the Ministry of Education cannot be idealistic at this time.
His concern comes as students enter the final preparations for their exit exams at the primary and secondary levels.
The education ministry has said it will be seeking to reach those students for whom lessons have been non-existent and inconsistent.
On Sunday evening, Education Minister Fayval Williams reminded parents and guardians that education is still compulsory and no child should be on the street or doing housework during school hours.
However, Mr. Wright said the reality of many students is that they have not been getting an education since COVID-19 reached Jamaica's shores.
He argued that "it can't be business as usual" in terms of how the ministry and schools approach teaching and exams because the circumstances of some students make it impossible for them to do well in their exit exams.