Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sending the Kids away

As I mentioned in a prior post, there is a fondness that Jamaican parents have for "sending the kids away to school" that I think is mistaken.

The new argument is a simple one, and it seems to be driven by consultants who have an interest in sending increasingly greater numbers of kids abroad. If your kids go to school in the US they will have a better chance of getting into universities and colleges.

This flies in the face of my personal experience.

I remember sitting around the table as a student who entered an Ivy League University straight from Jamaica, knowing that the education I received was no worse than any of my peers. This, in spite of lacking furniture to sit on, chemicals to do experiments and even teachers to learn something from at different points. I did so with a single O' Level and a raft of CXC passes, back when the CXC was in its first year and my schoolmates and I felt like unfortunate guinea-pigs. I also did the SAT and Achievement tests.

Now, it is true that I may very well be an exception for several reasons.

But I question the logic that says that admissions teams in colleges prefer a U.S. private-school student to one who went to Wolmers Boys School in Jamaica. My experience tells me something different.

Instead, from what I understand admissions teams value diversity in the student body, and ask themselves what a student can contribute to the college community. In their eyes, a student who comes to the university from Wolmers has more of to contribute than the thousands who attend an elite U.S. private school and apply to all the top schools.

For example, I remember when I did my college essays, and writing about keeping the standards of Wolmers as high as they had been in the past when the tenure of teachers was falling, and the standards had visibly deteriorated from First to Sixth Form.

I wrote about the role that we prefects were playing, and how we had been giving more and more detentions when the teachers had stopped giving them altogether.

In retrospect, I am sure that it was a unique essay for the admissions committees to read. It was authentic, and it was heartfelt.

I suspect that today's Jamaican parents do not appreciate what these admissions teams are looking for, and that by sending their kids to assimilate and learn the U.S. system before they are 18, they may be doing them a grave dis-service. Much better, (and cheaper) I think, is to let the child stay and then apply as a full-fledged Caribbean product, rather than one that is a culture shocked creature, being neither fish nor fowl.

One of my most vivid memories as an undergrad is sitting around meals and talking about high school with other students from the U.S. The theme I heard was consistent -- they absolutely hated their high school. This was true regardless of ethnicity, or geographic location, or size of school.

On the other hand, I absolutely loved my school, and as any Jamaican will tell you, loyalties are strong and deep to the high school that was attended.

I also recall hearing in amazement the way that Caribbean students were treated in US high schools -- falling into none of their natural cliques (which run by race) they were teased for their funny sounded accents, threatened by gangs and called "Coconuts" or worse. Most responded by quickly losing their accents in order to fit in (only to work hard to regain them in College, but that's another topic for another post.)

The point is that attending a High School in the US is a mixed bag of experiences and parents need to be very ,very savvy to ensure that they do the right thing in putting their children in environments they themselves simply don't understand.

 

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