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Dennis Minott | Skanking in the muds of Jamaica’s classrooms – Part 2

Published: Sunday | February 11, 2024 | 12:07 AM

In this June 2022 photo students are seen writing the PEP exam

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2022 delivered stark revelations, sparing Jamaica neither language nor figures. Jamaica finds itself below the global average among 81 nations whose 15-year-old students underwent academic evaluations in the latest triennial assessments covering reading, science, and mathematics.

In the first instalment of this three-part series, I delved into the persistent shortcomings in our approach to Reading, likening it to “Skanking in the muds of Jamaica’s classrooms”. Thinking via the vivid metaphor of a choquero (pigsty) commonly used in Mexican Spanish, a handy tongue of mine, I underscored the state of reading education in our nation.

Expanding on this metaphorical framework as a lifelong, repeatedly published researcher and educator in physics, I now introduce readers to the expression “Armarse un relajo en el choquero,” meaning “To throw a party in the pigsty”. This phrase vividly encapsulates the chaotic, disorderly, and uninspiring nature characterising significant aspects of Jamaica’s science education landscape.

Pigsty Object #3: Rote Learning from low-content, high-theatrics B. Eds.

This depiction highlights a prevailing reliance on rote memorisation, often accompanied by flashy but shallow teaching methods, emblematic of a broader issue within Jamaica’s counter critical thinking science education landscape.

To make my meaning unmistakable: rote learning is a memorisation technique based on repetition without necessarily understanding the meaning or significance of the information. It emphasises memorising facts, figures, and formulas exactly as they are presented, often through drills and chants.

Here are some key characteristics of rote learning:

Repetition: The information is repeated many times to be stored in memory.

Focus on memorisation: The goal is to recall information verbatim, not necessarily to understand it.

Limited critical thinking: There is little emphasis on analysing, interpreting, or applying the information.

Short-term benefits: Rote learning can be effective for memorising simple facts in the short term, like multiplication tables or historical dates.

Limited long-term benefits: Rote-learned information is often forgotten quickly, if not used or connected to deeper understanding.


While rote learning has its limitations, it can be a useful tool in some situations, especially for young learners or when establishing a foundation of basic knowledge. However, for deeper understanding and long-term retention, combining rote learning with other techniques like:

Inquiry-based learning: Encouraging students to explore and investigate concepts on their own.

Critical thinking: Asking questions, analysing information, and drawing conclusions.

Real-world connections: Relating learned information to everyday experiences and applications.

Unfortunately, from kindergarten and Sunday/Sabbath School, our young children are awarded and thus encouraged to learn things “by heart” and, throughout the length and breadth of this country, quizzes lionize those who coach and those who master the dubious arts of “swotting and regurgitating" much of what is barely understood. Even some bright youngsters are sucked into teams that remember unrelated and arbitrary/trivial facts, formulae, faces and figures of speech ...”look at the picture”...”what’s the name of the singer you are hearing?”...” which duke was the only husband of Jamaica’s last queen?”...” Name two elements of the actinide series of the periodic table”... “ name a Jamaican parish and its capital that bear the same word ‘Port’. “..."What is the main difference between the meanings in modern British English and current Jamaican English of the term Higgs Boson"?

Quizzes can be helpful especially as practised in the way more efficient education communities do.

Consider the following examples:

– United Kingdom: UK Junior Maths Challenge, and the British Science Challenge.

– United States: National Academic Championship, National History Bee, and the National Geographic Bee.

– Canada: Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge, and National History Bee of Canada.

– Australia: National Science Olympiad, Australian Geography Competition, and the National English Quiz.

– India: National Science Olympiad, National Talent Search Examination, and the National Cyber Olympiad.

Why are the high-school quiz competitions in The UK, The US, Canada, Australia, and India more likely to foster science literacy in the general population than those frequently broadcast in Jamaica? Think critically!

Pigsty Object #4: Noise Pollution by Amplified Music.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that noise pollution can cause annoyance, sleep disturbance, hearing impairment, tinnitus, cognitive impairment, adverse birth outcomes, mental health issues, myocardial infarction incidence, peptic ulcers, and disruption of communication and retentive capabilities in children.

Now, read a summary of the excellent Gleaner article brought to my attention by Mrs. Grace Wallace-Palmer, professional librarian at Midlands Bible Institute. The column was written by guest columnist Mark Harris, published on Tuesday, November 13, 2012, and titled: ‘Clamp down on noise nuisance’.


He highlights the detrimental impact of excessive noise pollution on residential areas, particularly caused by sound system operators using government schools as bases for their activities. He recounts an incident on October 18, 2010 where thundering sounds disrupted the community from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., reaching over 110 decibels, well above allowable thresholds. This disturbance not only affected the sleep of residents but also disrupted environmental projects and forced students to commute long distances because of a lack of rest.

Similar occurrences persisted over the years, including a five-day event in October 2012 with noise levels exceeding 115 decibels, emanating from the same government primary school. Despite Professor Harris’ previous complaints to school authorities and law enforcement, no effective action has been taken to address the issue.

The article also delves into the health implications of prolonged exposure to high levels of noise, which can lead to hearing loss, particularly among children. Professor Harris warns that even unborn children can be affected, with potential consequences for their learning abilities. He emphasises the devastating impact on education and calls for stricter regulations and accountability measures for school principals, similar to practices in other successful countries.

Drawing on examples from Japan, Malaysia, China, Australia, and the European Union, where noise pollution is tightly monitored and controlled, Professor Harris advocates for proactive measures to mitigate the adverse effects on health, education, and overall societal well-being.

In conclusion, Professor Harris’ article serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need to address noise pollution from schools and its profound impact on communities and children’s academic achievement.

Does that Prof Harris article not speak for itself?

Here’s the Pigsty Object: Loud music is probably hindering learning ability even in quiet rural south Portland. What of the rest of Jamaica ... ?

The third and final part of this series will look, DV, into some factors in Jamaica’s dismal PISA 2022 averages and will illuminate some Pigsty Objects in Jamaica causing our Mathematics education to skank and skid frighteningly.

Dennis Minott, PhD, is the CEO of A-QuEST-FAIR College Coaching. He is a multilingual green resources specialist, a research physicist, and a modest mathematician who worked in the oil and energy sector. Send feedback to: or

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