All of us talk about the challenges that our schools face and the challenges that our children face, but oftentimes we neglect having found a real-life solution here in Jamaica. Having seen how the School Wide Positive Behaviour Intervention and Support (SWPBIS) framework has reduced fights and raised grades among 56 pilot schools, it is now a no-brainer for the Ministry of Education to roll out across all Jamaican schools.
Asking children to define positive behavior, and to reward that, is much more effective than to criticize poor behaviour. I found that as a student myself and I see it again reinforced as a father to a four-year-old son whose goal in life is to ensure that he gets his stars from his teacher!
Moving up to primary and high school levels, SWPBIS provides schools with a framework to similarly motivate students. Schools are empowered to adapt this framework according to their situation and what best fits their needs.
I do acknowledge where we have difficulties and a lot of our children do come from very troubled situations. But we have determined as a ministry that when we have the data that convinces us that something works, then let’s go with what works!
We are taking the approach that we want buy-in from schools because we don’t want it to be that schools are forced to take on an intervention. We have seen that SWPBIS has worked best where the school and its community have fully realized the African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and involved not just teachers and students but also parents and at Albert Town High School, even the loader man at the local bus park.
We want schools to look around at the students, and what impacts them outside the school walls, and see how the framework can best help them learn – and teachers to teach!
It has been thanks to the support of our partner, UNICEF, that we’ve been able to pilot SWPBIS in Jamaica. It has been a very real, a very holistic partnership. One of the reasons that we have come here day, in fact, is that SWPBIS aligns with our policy. But mostly we have come because we want to align not only with talk but with budget, and so we are making provisions – because as we know, like all international funding, it will come to an end.
What SWPBIS offers us today in Jamaica is an opportunity to really focus on getting our children to learn and emulate the kinds of positive values and behaviours we all want to see them grow up with. This could do wonders for us as a nation, particularly as we seek to address our challenges with violence. We need everyone – students, teachers, parents and entire school communities – to work together in this direction, for the good of our children.