No place for dunce culture, says JTA head

BROWN’S TOWN, St Ann— President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association Leighton Johnson says there is no place for a “dunce culture” within the country’s schools.

His comment comes amidst controversy over some students’ wearing of backpacks with the word “Dunce” on them, a nod to popular songs that some have criticised for glorifying poor performance in class. Some educators have indicated that the bags will not be allowed in their schools. There were initial reports that one school would bar students wearing the bags from entering, prompting the education ministry to get involved. The ministry has made it clear that students should not be locked out of school and has suggested other forms of punishment.

While he did not refer directly to the issue of the bags, the JTA head made it clear where he stands on the wider issue.

“There is no place for a dunce culture or a dunce mentality, absolutely none, and I ask you, students, to embrace positive messages. It is not just a word, it has connotations. Embrace the things that are positive,” he said.

He was speaking at the official launch of the 2023/2024 academic year at the St Hilda’s Diocesan High School in Brown’s Town, St Ann on Tuesday.

Johnson urged students to grab the opportunities presented to them through education.

“You are the primary beneficiaries of our education system. I encourage you to embrace every opportunity for your educational procedures. Set achievable goals, be organised and manage your time efficiently. Remember, education is not just about achieving good grades. It is also about developing critical thinking skills and those technical competencies that are essential for your survival in our global space,” he said.

He also called on parents to support their children and assist them in manoeuvring the struggles they encounter.

“I understand very well the challenges you face in balancing work, childcare and monitoring your children’s education. These can all be overwhelming, parents, but I am encouraging you nonetheless to keep motivating your children. Encourage them to maintain high standards — those high standards that you have set in your homes,” he said.

“Support your schools in the quest to produce well-rounded students who will adapt to the demands of a dynamic world. Parents, encourage systems of accountability within your homes and hold your children accountable for their actions,” Johnson added.